The Fairbanks Ice Dogs rallied from a 2-goal deficit in the third period to beat the Kenai River Brown Bears 6-5 in overtime on Friday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
Doug Rose nailed in the gamewinner with four seconds left in overtime that left the Ice Dogs walking off the ice with their seventh win in a row.
What looked to be a sure victory for the Bears after two periods of play turned into a nightmare early in the third, when Lonnie Clary, Hans Gorowsky and Yannick Vedel scored three straight goals for Fairbanks in a span of 4 minutes, 7 seconds, resulting in a 5-4 lead midway through the third.
Defenseman Gustav Berglund scored his first goal of the season, tying the game back up with 2:58 to play, which ultimately forced the contest into overtime.
“We need to be able to close games out and we didn’t do it tonight,” said Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant. “Once it was 4-4 we played tentative and on our heels, and were not executing the game plan.”
The Brown Bears (13-9-3) now trail the Ice Dogs (17-7) 5-0 in the Alaska ERA Cup season series, but were still able to come away with a point on Friday, keeping them cemented in third place in the North American Hockey League Midwest division standings with 29 points. Fairbanks has 34, while the Minnesota Wilderness continue to lead with 36.
“We got to look on the bright side, we’ve scored five point in the last five games,” Beauparlant said. “I believe we’re starting to find our rhythm again. I certainly hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.”
Beauparlant said his squad was playing great in the first period, even while Fairbanks outshot them 15-7. Overall, Fairbanks was getting a lot of pucks on the net, outshooting Kenai River 53-21 in the game, including the overtime period.
“We came out with a lot of energy, I thought it was the best spark to a Friday game all year,” Beauparlant said. “We were moving our feet, competing hard, and it was the level that we expect of them.
“We kind of got away with it in the second period.”
Beauparlant said he was particularly pleased with Kenai River’s opening goal of the game, at the 2:56 mark of the first period, which was scored by Evan Butcher — the little brother of forward Alec Butcher — who made his NAHL debut on Friday night.
Evan was called up to the Brown Bears on Friday, and Beauparlant said he is currently tendered for next year. Butcher played in Colorado Springs for the Pikes Peak Minors, an AAA hockey team.
Butcher caused quite a stir by scoring in his first game, and it was followed up with a goal by Jacob Davidson on the Kenai River powerplay almost five minutes later that left the Bears with a 2-0 lead.
Albin Karlsson got the benefit of another Kenai River powerplay near the midway point of the second period, giving the Bears a 3-0 advantage.
Matt Rudin added a Kenai River goal late in the second period, but it was bookended by goals from Fairbanks’ Johnny Mueller. The period ended with Kenai River holding a 4-2 lead.
Perhaps it was the tryptophan from Thanksgiving dinner the previous day, perhaps not, but the third period proved to be disastrous for the Bears, as Fairbanks rallied from two goals behind to quickly take a one-goal lead by the 7:48 mark of the period.
Berglund’s goal with just under three minutes remaining was the saving grace for Kenai River that put the game into overtime and sparing the Bears a point.
“It was a nice play for him, a nice wrist-shot goal,” Beauparlant said.
In the five-minute overtime period, Fairbanks outshot Kenai River 8-2, and with a mere four seconds remaining, Rose took a chance from outside the crease and managed to knock it in past Bears goalie Zach Quinn, who nearly saved it but tipped the puck with his glove. Quinn was credited with the loss, saving 47 of 53 shots on goal.
“Five goals should win a hockey game,” Beauparlant said. “I’m sure (Fairbanks coach) Trevor Stewart would say the same thing. It’s one of those nights, people are excited, and I was thinking with 21 minutes to go that we need to continue to play a full 60, but that didn’t happen.”
After not giving up more than one goal in each of their last six games, Fairbanks came away with five goals given up to the Bears. Beauparlant said that is good to know his team has that kind of offensive power.
“The big thing is to keep finding ways to put pucks on net,” he said. “I don’t think if we put four or five up again, we should lose the hockey game. We just need better defense and to keep putting pucks and bodies on net, and getting traffic in front of the goal.”
The two teams face off again at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night at the Sports Complex.
Ice Dogs 6, Brown Bears 5, OT
Fairbanks 0 2 3 1 —6
Kenai River 2 2 1 0 —5
First period — 1. Kenai River, Butcher (Colwell, Chavez), 2:56; 2. Kenai River, Davidson (Purcell, Colwell), pp, 7:39. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Karlsson (Rudin, Colwell), pp, 8:08; 4. Fairbanks, Mueller (Madry, Clary), 12:54; 5. Kenai River, Rudin (Butcher, Chavez), 18:25; 6. Fairbanks, Mueller (Munson, Hetz), 18:58. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 7. Fairbanks, Clary (Lagrone, Madry), 3:41; 8. Fairbanks, Gorowsky (Lee, Munter), 5:02; 9. Fairbanks, Vedel (Lagrone, Lee), 7:48; 10. Kenai River, Berglund (Purcell, Karlsson), 17:02. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 11. Fairbanks, Rose (Lee, Munter), 4:56.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 7-7-5-2—21; Fairbanks 15-20-10-8—53.
Goalies — Kenai River, Quinn (53 shots, 47 saves); Fairbanks, Aldridge (21 shots, 16 saves).
Power play — Kenai River 2 for 4; Fairbanks 0 for 2.