FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs are firm believers in one of the most common sports cliches: it isn’t over until it’s over.
Although the Ice Dogs allowed their two-goal lead to disappear when they visited Richfield, Minnesota, to face the Minnesota Magicians in a North American Hockey League Midwest Division clash Saturday night, the team made up for it in the end.
One night after Fairbanks was embarassed in a lopsided 5-1 loss to Minnesota, the Ice Dogs recovered and escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Magicians in the series finale.
“The effort was much better tonight,” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said in a phone interview. “We still struggled with managing situations, but our effort was much better tonight. That carried us through.”
The Ice Dogs, who improved to 21-23-2-1 for
45 points in the division standings, received a big boost when defenseman Marc Sullivan netted the game-winner with 33 seconds remaining in regulation.
Although Sullivan’s third goal of the season was unassisted, the defenseman had some help before his slap shot beat Minnesota goaltender Ivan Prosvetov in the final minute of play.
“(Luke) Orysiuk threw it up the wall to (Daniel) Haider, who was patient and made a nice little play to Hampus Eriksson coming into the zone with some speed,” Stewart said.
“Hampus made a pretty high-end play to curl back, and he found Marc Sullivan late,” the coach continued. “Sullivan wound up, I think he probably closed his eyes, and had a perfectly placed slap shot with a nice screen in front.”
Sullivan’s goal was a relief for the Ice Dogs, especially considering they built a 2-0 lead earlier in the contest.
Eriksson was the first to find the back of the net with an unassisted goal 15:23 into the opening period, while Hunter Wendt extended the team’s lead to two midway through the second.
Cayden Cahill and Orysiuk recorded assists on Wendt’s score, which was the forward’s 13th of the season.
The Magicians (25-17-2-2) cut their deficit in half during the middle period, as Tanner Tweten made it a 2-1 game when he beat Fairbanks netminder Erik Gordon 14:37 into the frame.
Matthew Denman buried the equalizer 13:59 into the third period. However, Sullivan saved the day by beating Prosvetov (30 saves) with less than a minute remaining.
“The guys were super excited and elated, especially after we were protecting and not attacking as much as we were in the first period,” Stewart said. “It was a good feeling for the guys.”
The Springfield Jr. Blues, Fairbanks’ next opponent, steamrolled the Kenai River Brown Bears, 10-2, to hold on to third place in the standings with a 22-21-1-1 record for 46 points.
The Ice Dogs will travel to Springfield, Illinois, to face the Jr. Blues on Thursday and Friday. The rivals begin the series at 4:05 p.m. AKST Friday.
before dropping the puck at 3:05 p.m. AKST on Saturday.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter: @bradjoyal.