FAIRBANKS – It was a case of too little, too late for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs against the host Wenatchee Wild on Friday night in the first game of the North American Hockey League West Division Championship Series.
It took 47 minutes, 49 seconds into the opener of the best-of-five series before the Ice Dogs recorded their first goal. By then, Wenatchee was up 5-0 on the way to a 6-2 victory in Wenatchee, Wash.
Forwards Mark Pustin and Matt Millis scored in the third period for the Ice Dogs, who will try to even the series in Game 2 at 6:05 p.m. ADT today.
Goaltender Mark Taffe registered 29 saves for Fairbanks after he entered the contest in the second period for starter Joe Phillippi, who had five saves and allowed three goals in the first period.
The momentum that the Ice Dogs (35-23-4) had in a first-round sweep of the Alaska Avalanche didn\’t follow them Friday into the Town Toyota Center, where they were outshot 40-19, including 26-8 in the first two periods.
\”It was a little somber,\” Ice Dogs head coach Josh Hauge, in a telephone interview, said of the postgame mood in the locker room. \”They had played pretty good in the playoffs and this is the first time they got beat. On the same point, they know that if they don\’t play up their ability, they don\’t deserve to win and they\’re not going to.\”
Record-wise, the Wild, who were led Friday by two power-play goals from forward Ryan Timar and two assists from forward Shawn Pauly, have been tough on the Ice Dogs this season, winning nine of 10 regular-season contests.
However, Hauge said he thinks that his team might have shown Wenatchee too much respect Friday.
\”I have to give them (Wild) some credit, they\’re very good defensively, but I think we came into this game with way too much respect for them,\” Hauge said. \”For some reason, we were just waiting for something bad to happen and we were thinking that they were that good.
In all reality, we just have to go out and play because we\’re just as good as that team. But we didn\’t play that way tonight.\”
Pustin and Millis ended Fairbanks\’ offensive drought consecutively in the third period with power play goals which Taffe was pulled for an extra attacker.
Pustin, with assists from fellow forwards Michael Juola and Kyle Politz, scored at 7:49 of the period with his team-high third goal and fifth point of the postseason.
The Ice Dogs missed on a brief two-man advantage session, but Millis made sure they capitalized on a power play, as he scored at 11:12 with Juola\’s second assist of the night.
Each team had eight power plays, but the Wild converted one more chance than the Ice Dogs.
Wenatchee seized a 3-0 lead in the first period, eventually sending Phillippi to the bench.
Phillippi backstopped the first-round sweep of the Avalanche that advanced the Ice Dogs into the division title series and qualified them for the USA Hockey Robertson Cup National Tournament on May 4-9 in Wenatchee.
\”There was a couple of those (goals Friday) that Joe wishes he had back,\” Hauge said, \”but at the same point, he got hung out to dry because we didn\’t show up ready to play. … We showed up ready to play, but not at the level we needed to.\”
Defenseman Brandon Burrell scored for Wenatchee at 57 seconds into the game and Timar and defenseman Alex McLean added respective power plays at 11:40 and 18:02.
Timar donated another power-play marker at 18:02 of the second. Armand Deswardt made it 5-0 for the Wild at 4:03 of the third and Christian Hilbrich sealed the win with an empty-net deposit at 13:38 of the final period.
The Ice Dogs finished the game minus a skater after forward Aaron McGill was ejected with a fighting major and a checking-from-behind penalty at 14:52 of the second period.
Fairbanks was assessed 11 penalties for 33 minutes and Wenatchee received the same number for 22 minutes.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.