By Danny Martin, DMARTIN@NEWSMINER.COM
FAIRBANKS — After the Zamboni made its last run Saturday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs had gained a point in the North American Hockey League’s Midwest Division standings and were tied for second place.
The Ice Dogs, however, were collectively frustrated after Saturday’s finale of their home series against the Central Division’s Minot Minotauros.
The Ice Dogs wanted two points in the standings and a sweep of the visitors from Minot, North Dakota. Fairbanks, instead, got a single point in the standings after losing 4-3 in a 3-on-3 overtime.
Forwards Samuel Ruffin, Tanner Schachle and Daniel Haider scored, and goaltender Josh Benson made 15 saves for the Ice Dogs, who are 11-5-2-2 for 26 points and a second-place tie with the Minnesota Magicians in the Midwest standings. The Ice Dogs were coming off a 5-2 win in Friday’s series opener.
Fairbanks hasn’t swept a home series this season and the Ice Dogs generated several scoring opportunities Saturday.
“We had opportunities but I don’t know if we have developed that killer instinct that we need to,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said after the game.
“Let’s call it what it is — we haven’t won two games in a row for a long time,” Stewart said. “So, it’s just kind of frustrating for me and I let the guys know that. We just need to be better prepared and develop a killer instinct to win hockey games.”
Haider, a veteran center, tied the game at 3 at 12:30 of the third period by skating around the right side of the net, coming to a halt in front of the crease and popping the puck between the pads of Minot netminder Samu Lonkila (30 saves).
“I think it was a little bit of a broken play and I honestly don’t remember too much before it,” said Haider, who was assisted by forward Caleb Hite and defenseman Luke Orysiuk.
“I picked up the puck on the side of the net and I tried to wait him (Lonkila) out a little bit,” he said. “I think he was expecting me to wrap it (around) quick. I guess that if I was able to wait him out, I could beat him. I did but we didn’t get the two points, which is what we came for.”
Left wing Miroslav Mucha scored the game-winner off a rebound at 4:22 of the 5-minute overtime period, aided by Minot teammates Grant Loven and Lincoln Erne.
Loven had driven to the net but his shot went wide and Mucha capitalized on an opportunity.
“I beared with it, grabbed the puck and went around the net and scored,” said Mucha, who also had an assist Saturday.
Keenan Lund, with assists from Taylor Lantz and Colby Enns, had given the Minotauros a 3-2 lead at 2:25 of the third.
The teams tied 2-2 in the second period, starting with Ruffin doing the honors for the Ice Dogs and ending with Connor McGinnis scoring for the Minotauros.
Ruffin scored from the high slot at 2:03 after one-timing a pass from Jake Willets, who had received the puck from John Stampohar.
Austin Dollimer, with help from Spencer Kimball and Mucha, scored from the mid slot at 8:21. Nine seconds later, Schachle took Robert Blueger’s assist and popped in a high backhand from the left edge of the crease.
Schachle, who also was assisted by Erkka Vanska, had a hat trick and an assist in Friday’s contest.
McGinnis evened the score at 2 at 10:13 of the second period Saturday by camping at the edge of the right crease and redirecting in a shot by Minot forward Michael Talbot.
Ryan Green also assisted on the play for the Minotauros, who are 8-10-1-0 for 17 points and a fifth-place tie with the Minnesota Wilderness in the Central standings.
The Ice Dogs next play a two-weekend, home-and-home series against the Kenai River Brown Bears, their Midwest Division and Ravn Alaska Cup Series rival.
The teams meet at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. The series comes to the Dipper from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, with the first game at 7 p.m., and the second and third at 7:30 p.m.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.