EAGLE RIVER, Wis.- The Fairbanks Ice Dogs swept their second divisional opponent of the young North American Hockey League’s 2022-23 season. The dogs posted wins of 4-1 on Friday, and 2-1 on Saturday to spoil the inaugural home series for the Wisconsin Windigo. Formerly known as the Minnesota Magicians, the Windigo relocated to Eagle River, Wis. during the off season. With the weekend road sweep, the Ice Dogs are 4-0 in divisional play, 6-2 overall and tied atop the NAHL Midwest Division with 12 points on the season.
Jacob Conrad continued his giving ways on Friday, picking up a loose puck in his own zone and firing it up ice to the tape of a streaking Marc Lund, who beat Beckford Maxwell blocker side to put the visitors up 1-0. With the Dogs coming off a power play opportunity later in the first period, Tyler Herzberg corralled the rebound of a Brady Welsch shot in the right wing corner, moved the puck to the top of the circle and snapped a shot that found its target to extend to a 2-0 Ice Dogs’ lead. That would prove to be the game winner, as Cameron Ricotta and Brady Welsch added third period markers in a 4-1 Ice Dogs win.
The Dogs and Windigo would grind through 35 minutes of scoreless hockey before Noah Wood tallied his first career NAHL goal, off a feed from Jack Dolan on an odd-man rush to give the Dogs a 1-0 advantage at the second intermission. Wisconsin’s Axel Begley connected on a red line shot took a funny bounce and handcuffed Kayden Hargraves leaving the game 1-1 just a minute and 28 seconds into the third period.
The game remained deadlocked deep into the third period, when Caden Pendo as assessed a 2-minute slashing minor sending the Dogs to the penalty kill. With about 12 seconds remaining on the kill, Ice Dogs’ bench boss Dave Allison called a time out.
“We were tired,” Allison said. “You have to listen to your players, and when your penalty killers say they’re tired, especially at that stage of the game, you need to use that time out.”
The move paid off.
Lund had the puck on his stick with speed in the neutral zone as the penalty expired. He ripped a shot that caromed off the back boards. Pendo, who had exited the box and raced into the play, hunted the puck behind the goal and found Herzberg out front for the game-winner in a 2-1 Ice Dogs victory.
“We were just battling for each other on that PK, everybody was sacrificing,” Herzberg said. “It felt good to get rewarded with that goal, but it was really about playing for the guy next to you on that kill that was the most rewarding.”
For Herzberg, it marked his fourth goal in four games, and back to back game winners for the Germantown, Wisconsin native.
Hargraves, as he has been this season, extremely solid in net all weekend. He stopped 71 of the 73 shots he faced in the two games against Wisconsin, including 17 in the third period of Saturday’s tilt. He has a .939 save percentage, with a goals against average of 2 and a 5-1 record.
At 6-2 the Ice Dogs have earned 12 points through eight games this season. They are tied with the Janesville Jets, who are yet to lose in regulation this season for the top spot in the NAHL Midwest Division. The Chippewa Steel and Kenai River Brown Bears are tied with 8 points to round out the top-4 teams in the division. Anchorage, Minnesota, Springfield and Wisconsin hold the 5-8 positions respectively.
The Dogs travel to Springfield to face the 2-2 Jr. Blues in a 2-game series this weekend, before heading back to the 49th state to open the home portion of their schedule on Oct. 7. Allison is not about to let his team look past the task at hand this weekend.
“Springfield is always well coached and play with speed,” Allison said. “We are going to have to be sharp and need to play with speed.”
Game times go at 7:05 CDT on Friday and 6:05 CDT on Saturday. Stream the games live on HockeyTV.com