FAIRBANKS—Hans Gorowsky capitalized on a bounce and the Fairbanks Ice Dogs readjusted their defense.
Both factors were huge in a 6-4 victory over the Johnstown Tomahawks in Friday night’s opener of the nondivisional North American Hockey League series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The Ice Dogs, in second place in the Midwest Division at 34-14-3, enjoyed leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the second period before the Tomahawks, of Pennsylvania, rattled off three unanswered goals to even the score at 4 in the third period.
“For the most part, it was us getting sloppier as the game went on,’’ said Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart, “and it seemed like them getting their legs, and they worked really hard.”
Gorowsky, a veteran center, displayed his work ethic for the eventual game-winning goal at 16:20 of the third.
“He’s really charismatic and he provides a lot for our team,’’ Stewart said. “He’s been playing well lately and everybody looks up to him, and he’s a really good hockey player that we’re fortunate to have.”
Ice Dogs defenseman Johnny Mueller skated up the right wing toward the middle of the ice to fire a shot that deflected off a Tomahawks defender. Gorowsky swooped in from the left circle to retrieve the bounce and drill it past Johnstown reserve goaltender Ryan Bednard (10 saves).
Ice Dogs defenseman Jakob Stridsberg had the other assist on the goal for his second point of the night.
“We just had to turn all that negative into positive,” Gorowsky said, alluding to Johnstown rallying to the 4-all tie. “We can’t lose a game like that when you give up three unanswered goals. We just came together as a team and said we’re not losing this.”
Before Gorowsky’s opportunistic tally, Zac Robbins tied the game for Johnstown at 10:33 of the third by poking the puck through a scramble in front of Ice Dogs goalie Patrick Munson, who finished with 27 saves. Alex Alder and Brady Bender assisted on Robbins’ second goal of the contest.
After Gorowsky’s game-winner, Ethan Somoza, with help from Todd Burgess and Mueller’s second helper Friday, planted the puck into an empty net to seal the win with 35 seconds left in the game.
The Ice Dogs returned in the third period to the low-slot clogging defense that helped them to a 2-0 lead in the first period and a 3-0 advantage on the scoreboard early in the second period.
“We started out pretty strong defensively and we kind of made it hard on ourselves; but we battled and we found a way to win,” said right wing Ryner Gorowsky, Hans’ brother who contributed a goal and an assist Friday.
Stridsberg, with help from Yannick Vedel and Lonnie Clary, produced the game’s first goal at 14:39 of the opening period and Ryner Gorowsky took advantage of Somoza’s and Hans Gorowsky’s assistance at 18:11 for the 2-0 lead.
Jesper Ohrvall one-timed in Chandler Madry’s power-play feed at 37 seconds into the second period to make it 3-0. Ryner Gorowsky provided the other assist.
Collin Montgomery, while slipping and getting pressured by an Ice Dogs defender, flung a desperation puck from outside of the left circle, surprising Munson and producing Johnstown’s first goal. Jake Houston and Bender assisted on the marker at 9:56 of the second.
Somoza, aided by John Zimmerman, stretched Fairbanks lead to 4-1 at 10:11 of the second and the goal also ended the starting stint of Johnstown netminder Jacob Gwillim (25 saves).
Robbins got his first of the game at 18:54 of the second, making it 4-2 off of helpers by Tanner Barnes and Steven Quagliata.
Tomahawks teammate Nick LeSage made the most of Filips Buncis’ assist at 4:15 of the third to close the Ice Dogs’ lead to 4-3.
Johnstown’s fourth-place record in the North Division slipped to 21-21-7.
The Ice Dogs have a 2-1-0 lead in the season series. The teams split Dec. 30-31 in Pennsylvania, with the Ice Dogs taking the opener 6-3 and falling 3-1 in the second game.
• Ice Dogs players are scheduled to be at Gene’s Chrysler from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today for the dealership’s last day of its employee pricing promotion.
• Tonight’s game at 7:30 marks the end of the Ice Dogs’ 17-game, eight-week stay in Alaska.
• Correction: The Ice Puppies are a program of the Arctic Lions. Their affiliation was incorrect in an article in Friday’s sports.
The Ice Puppies players, ages 4-6, played during the first intermission Friday and are doing likewise for the first intermission tonight.
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: