By Danny Martin, DMARTIN@NEWSMINER.COM
FAIRBANKS — Simplicity worked for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs against the Minot Minotauros in Friday night’s North American Hockey game at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Simplicity worked well enough to help veteran left wing Tanner Schachle score a hat trick and veteran linemates Erkka Vanska and Robert Blueger combine for five assists in a 5-2 win in the opener of the weekend series against the Minotauros, of Minot, North Dakota and the NAHL’s Central Division. Vanska also scored in the first period.
“Our success the last couple of games has come because we worked simple,’’ Ice Dogs head coach Scott Deur said.
“Keeping the whole game simple is kind of what we’ve been preaching this week, and you kind of saw it tonight,’’ he said.
The announced audience of 2,422 saw Schachle score his first career hat trick for the Ice Dogs just four days after he committed to the NCAA Division I program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which is located about 40 miles from his hometown of Wasilla.
Goal No. 3 for Schachle was the only score of the second period and the Ice Dogs’ first power play after an 0-for-11 skid during last weekend’s home split with the Bismarck Bobcats, another Central Division squad from North Dakota.
Schachle put the Ice Dogs ahead 4-0 at 11:22 of the second after he creeped to the left edge of the crease, collected a pass from defenseman and three-point scorer Kyle Mayhew, and sent in a shot under diving Minotauros goaltender Jack Robbel.
Vanska also assisted on the third hat trick of the season for the Ice Dogs, who improved their third-place record in the Midwest Division to 11-5-1-2 for 25 points in the standings. Fairbanks, which faces Minot at 7:30 tonight, is just a point behind the second-place Minnesota Magicians and two points behind the division-leading Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets.
“They did most of it. They made me look good out there; I just put the puck in the open net,’’ Schachle said of his teammates, particularly Vanska, who had three assists, and Blueger, who contributed two helpers.
“They were the ones moving it around to me, getting it to me, finding me,’’ Schachle added. “Kudos to them; my hat trick is their hat trick.”
Schachle scored bookend goals during the Ice Dogs’ three-goal burst in the first period
At 2:56 into the game, he received a pass across the crease from Mayhew and tapped it into the left side of the net. Defenseman Luke Orysiuk also helped on Schachle’s fifth goal of the season. Another defenseman, Noah Wilson, set up Vanska for a snap shot from the slot that cleared Robbel’s stick side at 7:57.
Schachle found the back of the net with a high wrist shot at 11:09, aided by Blueger and Vanska.
“It was great. Everything was going our way and every shot was going in,’’ Blueger said of the chemistry among him, Schachle and Vanska.” We got some lucky bounces, but I think we worked really hard and that paid off.”
Blueger and Schachle set up Mayhew for a rebound goal at the right edge of the crease at 16:15 of the third period.
Minot, in last place in the six-team Central Divsion at 7-10-1-0 for 15 points, got its goals in the final period.
Rykr Cole scored at 8:47 of the third with assists from Austin Dollimer and Andrew Kangas. Miroslav Mucha produced his team-high 19th point of the season with a goal at 17:00, set up by Alex Adams and Nolan Sawchuk.
Ice Dogs goaltender Josh Benson made 34 saves and denied all four of Minot’s power plays. Robbel finished with 18 saves and denied five of Fairbanks’ six sessions with the extra skater.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.