FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs had promising moments against the Springfield Jr. Blues during Saturday night’s finale of their North American Hockey League series in the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The Ice Dogs, however, didn’t have what they wanted most — a split of the Midwest Division matchup.
Fairbanks fell 4-1 Saturday after suffering a 4-2 setback Friday night on its home ice.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said after the loss that raised Fairbanks’ winless streak to six games (0-5-1) and dropped it into a fourth-place tie in the Midwest Division with the Jr. Blues, of Springfield, Illinois.
“Springfield had a game plan and they came in executed and they buried on their chances, and we didn’t,” Stewart continued. “We had numerous opportunities to put ourselves in situations to succeed. … Every time we lose a game, we’re losing battles and the other team’s winning battles.”
Goaltender Joshua Sarlo, who started the season with Springfield, made 18 saves for the Ice Dogs, 7-9-2-1 for 17 points in the Midwest standings. Jr. Blues counterpart Evan Fear recorded 27 saves to secure the series sweep for Springfield (8-11-0-1 for 17 points).
The Jr. Blues produced the game’s ifrst goal just six seconds into a power play in the second period, where the Ice Dogs evened the score with the help of a bounce.
Springfield center Braden Brown, with his third goal of the series, popped in a rebound shot from the between the he crease and the right circle during a man-advantage session at 8:29.
Hunter Wendt tied the game at 13:41 of the middle period with a blast from the left point that bounced in off Fear’s glove-side pad. Wendt’s fifth goal of the season was set up by Julius Marva and Nolan Schaeffer.
The Ice Dogs finished the game a skater short after Colton Fletcher was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind at 1:15 into the third period.
The Ice Dogs killed the long power play, aided by clearing the puck 12 times.
However, not long after the power-play denial by Fairbanks, Brennan Blaszczak scored the game-winner with a snap shot from the right circle through Sarlo’s pads at 6:55 into the third. Blasczak’s first of two goals in the period was assisted by Fabio Hollenstein and Matt Long, who each had two points during the final 20 minutes of the series.
Hollenstein, with help from Jack Nickels, planted the puck in an empty net with 57 seconds left in the game. Sarlo was pulled again for an extra attacker and Blaszcak, assisted by Long and Luke Picek, sent a shot nearly the length of the ice (200 feet) in an empty net with 10 seconds left on the scoreboard clock.
The Jr. Blues often forced the Ice Dogs wide on their shots during a scoreless first period. Sarlo came up big during the game’s first 20 minutes and among his seven saves in the period was a high-glove, point-blank stop of Zachary Tyson’s attempt from in front of the crease at 8:18.
The Ice Dogs return to the Big Dipper at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday to take on the Midwest-leading Janesville Jets. The Jets swept the Ice Dogs by respective scores of 5-2 and 3-2 on Nov. 4 and 5 at the Janesville Ice Arena in Janesville, Wisconsin.
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