FAIRBANKS — Once again, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs skated with the Janesville Jets in a North American Hockey League Midwest Division clash at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
And, once again, the Ice Dogs failed to hold a lead against the Midwest Division-leading Jets, who rallied to earn a 5-2 victory after tying the game 2-2 late in the second period.
Although Janesville took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Fairbanks used a pair of power-play goals to garner a 2-1 advantage midway through the middle frame. In the end, though, the Jets’ high-powered offense was too much for the struggling Ice Dogs, who with the loss extended their winless streak to eight games.
“The game isn’t won or lost in 40 minutes; you have to play 60 minutes,” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said. “We haven’t figured out a way to do that.”
The Ice Dogs’ overall record slipped to 7-11-2-1, as they have gone 0-7-1 in their last eight games. Fairbanks has dropped its last four games at the Big Dipper after being swept by the Springfield Jr. Blues in a two-game home stand Nov. 11 and 12.
With the win, Janesville (Wisconsin) improved its overall record to 16-4-0-1. The Jets swept the Ice Dogs when the two rivals met in Wisconsin earlier this month.
“I think despite what happened here this weekend, we’re still going to have to get through (Fairbanks) to win anything,” Janesville head coach Joe Dibble said.
“They’re going to be there at the end of the year,” he continued. “It’s tough to come into this building and win in this atmosphere, so for us to come in here and win both, it’s a huge momentum swing for us.”
Cayden Cahill gave the Ice Dogs a 2-1 lead when he beat Jets’ starting goaltender Jacob Barczewski with a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle 9:42 into the second period.
However, Fairbanks’ lead didn’t last long, as Blake Wareham provided Janesville with a huge boost when he evened the score 2-2 1:32 before the second intermission.
After falling behind earlier in the period, Wareham’s goal was just what the visiting Jets needed to spark a rally.
“I think that’s what probably changed the game — that one goal,” Dibble said. “The message to our guys was to empty our tanks going into that third period,” the coach added.
“We went through a war to win this game.”
Even though Fairbanks goalie Conor O’Brien, who made his Ice Dogs debut in last night’s 5-2 loss after coming over from the South Division’s Lone Star (Texas) Brahmas, was sharp during the first two periods, the Jets used quick, crisp passes to generate scoring chances and put the game away in the third.
Cullen Munson lit the lamp to give Janesville a 3-2 edge when he finished off a perfect crossing pass from Adrian Holesinsky to beat O’Brien (25 saves) at the doorstep of the goal 4:48 into the final period.
Peter Bates went five-hole to extend the Jets’ lead to 4-2 12:09 into the third period before Cole Paskus added an empty-net goal with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
Offensively, the Ice Dogs struggled to put the puck on Barczewski, who made 18 saves in the win. Even though Cahill beat him with a blast, and Dean Hewines tickled the twine to tie it 1-1 on a power play in the first period, Fairbanks struggled to match the Jets’ scoring chances throughout the night.
“They blocked a lot of our shots. We just have to get our shots through and get them on net,” Cahill said.
“It’s a matter of us putting together a full 60 minutes,” Cahill added. “We had them in the first two periods, but then we let off the gas. We didn’t take advantage of (our lead).”
As the Ice Dogs prepare to resume the Ravn Alaska Cup Series with a three-game visit to Kenai River next weekend, Stewart said his team must find a way to get back on track.
“There are a few things that we need to address,” the coach said.
“Some of our guys need to start taking some strides in the right direction,” he continued. “We haven’t seen that from enough players at this point.”
Contact News-Miner sports writer Brad Joyal at 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter:@bradjoyal.