FAIRBANKS — Samuel Ruffin wasn’t just happy about scoring the winning goal for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs against the Kenai River Brown Bears in Saturday night’s finale of their North American Hockey League series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Besides his late third-period tally lifting the Ice Dogs a 4-3 victory and a sweep of the two-game set, the right wing assured that the 4-year-old Ravn Alaska Cup trophy would reside in Fairbanks for the fourth straight season.
“It’s an honor. We’ve got the (Ravn) Cup sealed and that’s a good thing, and I’m proud of it,” Ruffin said outside of the Ice Dogs lockerroom.
Hunter Wendt contributed two goals, Daniel Haider scored once and goatender Erik Gordon registered 22 saves for the Ice Dogs, who raised their third-place record in the Midwest Division to 20-22-2-1 for 43 points in the standings.
Saturday’s tiebreaking victory also was the sixth win in a row for Fairbanks. The streak includes five straight against Kenai River, which holds sixth place in the Midwest at 10-32-2-0 for 22 points.
The Ice Dogs were coming off a 5-1 win Friday in the Dipper but the Brown Bears, led by two goals from Jake Friedman, were more tenacious offensively Saturday.
“They won most of the battles throughout the game,” Fairbanks head coach Trevor Stewart said. “It put us on our heels and I think we just kind of got lucky, for the most part.
“We found ourselves in situations where we could score some goals and we did, which is great,’’ he continued. “We found a way to win and that’s what we need. Sometimes you can’t win pretty; you’ve got to win ugly and tonight we did that.”
One of those opportunistic situations occured at 15:47 of the third period with the game tied 3-3.
Ruffin, with assists from Ryan Kero and Nolan Schaeffer, beat Brown Bears goaltender Colt Hanks (27 saves) with a shot from the slot.
“Our defenseman (Schaeffer) had a good play in the neutral zone, and got it up to our forward, Ryan Kero,” Ruffin said. “I was sitting in the slot and he (Kero) made a great play and I just buried it.”
Jack Vincent had made it 3-3 for Kenai River during a power play at 5:21 of the third. Radetic also scored with a shot from the slot and his was set up by Jonathan Marzec’s second assist of the game and a helper from Luke Radetic.
Wendt, with assists from Cayden Cahill and Marc Sullivan, put Fairbanks up 3-2 at 2:28 of the third by cutting across the front of the crease and dropping in a backhand shot.
Kenai River tied it at 2 with the only goal in the second period, Friedman’s second marker of the night at 7:17 from assists by Shane Monahan and Ryan Mezera.
Friedman gave the Brown Bears at 1-0 at 9:42 into the first period with a backhand from the low slot.
The Ice Dogs responded back-to-back power-play goals.
Daniel Haider fired a shot from the top of the slot that cleared traffic in front of the crease at 9:42. Fairbanks’ first goal of the night was set up by Aaron McPheters and Hampus Erikkson.
Wendt, at 16:54, scored on a backdoor shot that traveled along the goal line near the left circle. Defenseman Luke Orysiuk and Marc Sullivan set up Wendt, who has 12 goals this season.
The Ice Dogs are on the road for divisional series during the next two weeks. Fairbanks takes on the Minnesota Magicians in Richfield, Minnesota on Friday and Springfield Jr. Blues in Illinois on Feb. 24 and 25.
The Fairbanks Curling Club is playing host a farewell gathering for Roger McKinnon from 1:30 to 4 p.m. today.
McKinnon, who is known as “Mr. Hockey” started the Sport King hockey shop, coached the Alaska Gold Kings to several USA Hockey senior amateur men’s national titles and is a charter member of the Fairbanks Hockey Hall of Fame.
McKinnon is retiring and moving this spring to his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie,
Contact sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: