Ice Dogs let lead slip away

Mar 24, 2011

FAIRBANKS—Josh Hauge said if his team plans to win today’s rematch against the Alaska Avalanche, they’ll have to play as a team — more than they did against the Avalanche in Thursday’s North American Hockey League game, at least. Thursday, the Ice Dogs held a 4-3 lead in the third period, but couldn’t skate to a victory, losing 6-4 to Alaska.

“I thought our power play was spectacular,” Hauge said. The Ice Dogs scored three of their four goals on the power play Thursday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.

“We were outplayed in the rest of the game,” he continued. “Five-on-five and 4-on-4, they were the better team.”

Fairbanks skated to a 1-0 lead after the first period after Gabe Levin scored the team’s first power play goal on passes from Jared Linnell and Tayler Munson at the 14:40 mark.

“I thought our first period, we came out slow,” Avalanche forward and Anchorage native Zach Smith said. “We weren’t playing to our potential.”

The teams played a more even second period, each scoring two goals, pushing the Ice Dogs to a 3-2 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

Eliot Grauer, on passes from Evan Hesse and Chase Van Allen, put the Avalanche on the board first in the middle period with a goal at the 1:30 mark. Smith picked up the team’s second goal of the period at the 15:07 mark. Grauer and Hesse contributed the assists.

“In the second, we picked things up a little,” Smith said. “The guys were hitting more.”

JT Osborn and Charlie Thauwald picked up the Ice Dogs’ second-period goals at the 8:00 and 11:53 marks, respectively. Assisting Osborn was Brock Carlston, and Linnell and Zach Vierling assited Thauwald on his power play score.

The Ice Dogs went on to lose the third period 4-1, and Hauge said the Avalanche gained momentum less than two minutes into the final period.

“About a minute and a half into the third, we had a dumb penalty, and they scored,” he said, referring to a hooking minor called on Ice Dogs defenseman Preston Hodge. “We couldn’t answer and didn’t handle the adversity well.”

Brandon Brossoit and Jake Williams assisted the period’s opening goal, an Avalanche score from Grant Dye on the power play at the 2:13 mark, but Fairbanks’ John Stampohar answered back, also on the power play, at the 5:34 mark on a puck passed by Linnell and Levin.

Alaska’s next three goals hit the Ice Dogs like an avalanche.

Andy Pearson, on passes from Matt Friese and Blake Huppert, scored at the 11:19 mark, and Smith scored the team’s last two goals, 19 seconds apart from each other.

“It was exciting,” the 5-foot-9 Smith said after the game. He scored on a pass from Pearson at the 13:56 mark and again, on passes from Pearson and Williams, at the 14:15 mark.”

“But, it was all the guys, doing little things off the bat,” Smith added. “The third period’s been the strongest period all season for us. We knew what we had to do. We were ready to sacrifice anything. We came into the game and said we were going to play like it was the start of a playoff series. I think that’s what we did.”

Hauge said despite what the scorebook may show, his team didn’t lose focus in the third period — the game was decided earlier on.

“It was the first 10 minutes that was the lack of focus,” Hauge said. “You don’t set the tempo in the third. We didn’t handle adversity tonight.”

Joe Phillippi sat between the pipes for the Ice Dogs where he faced 28 shots and finished with 22 saves. Landon Peterson faced 35 shots as the Avalanche’s goalie. He made 31 saves on the night.

The Ice Dogs, 39-14-3 atop the NAHL’s West Division, get another shot at the Avalanche (31-21-4) tonight, and both teams have a game plan.

“If we start out in the first like we played in the third today, establish our check game early and work to achieve our team goals,” Smith said, “we’ll be good.”

“We need to play as a team tomorrow,” Hauge said of his team’s key to success for tonight’s 7:30 battle. “We need players to put the team in front of themselves.”

Contact staff writer Renee Thony at 459-7583.