FAIRBANKS — JT Osborn scored the game-tying goal with 17 seconds left on the clock, but the Fairbanks Ice Dogs couldn’t carry the momentum into overtime and the ensuing shootout Friday night in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Osborn’s goal against his former teammates, off an assist from Zach Vierling, tied the score at 3-3, but Wichita Falls outscored the Ice Dogs 3-1 in the shootout to claim the victory in front of almost 1,500 fans at Kay Yeager Coliseum.
“From a coach’s standpoint, we’re not going to win the national championship in a shootout, so I’m really happy that we were able to come back and get a point out of tonight’s game,” Ice Dogs coach Josh Hauge said shortly after his team left the ice. “I was more concerned about getting the first point tonight than I was the second.”
On the flip side, Hauge said he wouldn’t mind seeing his team score more goals in shootouts.
“We’re struggling to score in the shootout right now, so that’s something we need to work on,” Hauge said.
Osborn was acquired from the Wildcats shortly before the season began last week and turned in a strong showing for Fairbanks in the NAHL Showcase.
The Ice Dogs are 3-0-2 on the season and have eight points in the NAHL West Division standings. Fairbanks has picked up eight of a possible 10 points in its first five games.
The Ice Dogs hit the road for Frisco, Texas as soon as Friday night’s game was finished. Fairbanks will play the Texas Tornado (2-3-0) tonight and Sunday before heading to Wenatchee, Wash. for a three-game series Sept. 30-Oct. 1-2 against the Wenatchee Wild (4-1-0).
The Ice Dogs dominated the first period Friday night, outshooting the Wildcats 13-6, but found themselves in a 1-0 hole after 20 minutes of action.
“We were really playing well, but one of our defensemen caught an edge and went down and allowed their guys to go in all alone and put one in,” Hauge said.
The second period was almost the opposite, but the Ice Dogs scored twice and went into the third period tied 2-2.
Charlie Thauwald scored an unassisted goal at 11:19 of the second to tie the score, and Matt Millis put the Ice Dogs ahead at 15:10 with a score set up by linemates Alexander Jensen and Thauwald.
“The line of Thauwald, Millis and Alexander is really playing well for us right now,” Hauge said.
Wichita Falls came back to even things up at 18:40 of the season on an unassisted goal by Dakota Klecha.
The Wildcats went ahead on Sean Keane’s goal at 8:08 of the third, setting the stage for Osborn’s game-tying goal after Hauge pulled goalie Joe Phillippi for an extra attacker.
Phillippi stopped 39 shots on the night for the Ice Dogs. Fairbanks had 43 shots on goal.
Contact sports editor Bob Eley at email@example.com Green stopped all five Fairbanks efforts in a shootout, and then veteran forward Ryan Frost scored on the fifth Wildcats try to give Wichita Falls a hard- fought 4-3 win at Kay Yeager Coliseum.
The Wildcats seemed to have the game won in regulation but former ‘Cat J.T. Osborn scored with 17 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Frost fired the game-winner between Fairbanks goalie Joe Phillipi’s skates.
“I just went to the five hole,” Frost said. “That was my go-to breakaway move. There was no way that I could let Osborn beat us.”
The Wildcats were perfect on the penalty kill, including denying Fairbanks in overtime after Chris Leone took a slashing minor.
“That’s the story of our season, outstanding goaltending and special teams,” Wildcats head coach Mark LeRose said. “That was a huge penalty kill in overtime. We don’t get to the shootout without it.”
LeRose also praised his team’s defensive effort. “Our top four D played great. I was especially pleased with the play of Miha Stebin.”
The late Ice Dogs goal did little to blemish the effort of Green. He stopped 41 of 44 shots and his rebound control was impeccable. Green has won all three of his starts this season.
“When you stop 5 of 5 in a shootout, you can’t ask for more than that,” LeRose said.
Sean Keane put the Wildcats up 3-2 midway through the third with a slap-shot from just outside the crease. Mac Olson hit Keane with a wonderful saucer pass from the right boards. Wichita Falls dominated the final 10 minutes but Phillipi kept the Ice Dogs within one with several big saves.
The Wildcats stayed undefeated and ran their record to 5-0-0. They play host to the Amarillo Bulls tonight at 7:05.
Despite being outshot 13-6 in the first period, the Wildcats held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Mac Olson found Frost unchecked in the slot with a slick pass and he easily found the back of the net.
The Ice Dogs took advantage of a Wildcats turnover at the blue line to even the score at one with 8:40 left in the second. Fairbanks forward Charlie Thauwald gathered up the loose puck at center ice and completed the breakaway, beating Green with a blistering wrist shot.
The Ice Dogs went up 2-1 four minutes later on a goal from Matt Millis. Green was unable to corral a rebound just outside the crease and Millis deposited the puck inside the right post. Dakota Klecha evened the score for the ‘Cats with fifth goal of the season late in the middle period. He took a pass past the red line and outraced the Fairbanks defense down the boards and scored a highlight-reel goal. The first-year forward got Phillipi to bite on a fake and drug the puck to his backhand and easily slid the puck home.
Attendance was 1,257. The Wildcats are alone in first place in the South Division after Topeka fell to St. Louis 5-1 Friday night. Amarillo topped Texas 1-0.