Daren Tracey was back in net for Peninsula on Sunday, but his reappearance wasn't enough for the Chinooks to avoid a sweep in the first-round Western States Hockey League playoff series with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The Ice Dogs used a pair of goals 41 seconds apart in the third period to earn a 4-1 victory at the Big Dipper Arena in Fairbanks.
"They played hard and they won. They have a good hockey team," Peninsula coach and general manager Paddy Flynn said. "They were 37 points better than us in the regular season, and in a best-of-five games series they were three games better."
The Chinooks were short-handed in the series as two of the teams best players, forward Dustin Curley and defenseman Dan Fagan, were injured in the Chinooks regular-season finale, a 4-3 win over the Ice Dogs at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Curley and Fagan, along with injured Bryon Coleman, called the games on the Chinooks' radio broadcast.
"Every team has their MVP-type players and those were definitely two of our guys," Flynn said.
Peninsula's bench was shortened even further on Friday when Tracey, Steve Shaughnessy and Rob Batchelor, along with three Fairbanks players, received game misconduct penalties during a second period melee. All six players sat out Saturday's contest.
Jamie Prior scored the Chinooks lone goal on Sunday, stealing a pass just outside Fairbanks' blue line and swooping in to slide the puck past Fairbanks goaltender Keith Bartusch late in the first period.
"We had a couple of guys step up over the weekend," Flynn said. "Jamie Prior definitely played well throughout the playoffs. He was our MVP in this series. He is one of the smartest, if not the smartest player I have ever coached."
The Chinooks lost to Fairbanks in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year, but Peninsula beat the Ice Dogs once and defeated the Claim Jumpers twice during the regular season.
"They have nothing to hang their heads about," Fairbanks coach Rob Proffitt said. "they have a first-class organization. With 45 seconds left they were still busting their butts. Paddy has his guys believing in him and his system, which they should.
"They have improved each of the past two seasons and I expect them to continue to improve."
The Chinooks hung close through two periods in each of the three games, but were outscored 13-0 in the third period in the series.
"Obviously, if you eliminate the third period we were in the game fighting," Flynn said. "We gave it an honest effort."
Flynn thinks the Chinooks are not too far from getting to the level the two-time defending league champion Ice Dogs are at.
"I think this organization has suffered through two years of growing pains," Flynn said. "They are building a base. We had 358 fans paid attendance per game and I expect to double or triple that in the future. I think this organization will continue to grow and get better."
ICE DOGS 4, CHINOOKS 1
Peninsula 1 0 0 --1
Fairbanks 2 0 2 --4
First period -- 1. Fairbanks, Jusczak (Engles, Slater), 3:26; 2. Fairbanks, Bennett (unassisted), 14:55; 3. Peninsula, Prior (unassisted), 17:14. Penalties -- Peninsula 2 for 4:00, Fairbanks 2 for 4:00.
Second period -- no scoring. Penalties -- Peninsula 11 for 33:00, Fairbanks 13 for 59:00.
Third period -- 4. Fairbanks, Bennett (Slater, Anderson), 6:58 PPG; 5. Fairbanks, Williams (Engles, Slater), 7:39. Penalties -- Peninsula 7 for 28:00, Fairbanks 4 for 19:00.
Shots on goal -- Peninsula 4-10-4--18; Fairbanks 14-11-13--38.
Goalies -- Peninsula, Tracey (38 shots, 34 saves); Fairbanks, Bartusch (18 shots, 17 saves).
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