The Fairbanks Ice Dogs weathered an early third-period storm by the Kenai River Brown Bears for a 4-3 victory on Thursday night at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The Brown Bears entered the third period trailing 3-0, but scored three goals in 1 minute, 14 seconds, to even up the score. The Ice Dogs preserved the North American Hockey League victory in front of 563 fans by scoring with 6:19 to play.
With the victory, the Ice Dogs moved into a tie with the Brown Bears for second place in the NAHL West Division. Fairbanks is now 4-4-1, while the Brown Bears are 4-6-1. Both have nine points.
Brown Bears head coach Brent Agrusa talked before the game about how his team had not played well in the third period in a pair of losses to the league-leading Alaska Avalanche of Wasilla last weekend.
On Thursday, the Brown Bears came out like gangbusters in the third. Just 46 seconds into the third, Jed McGlasson ignited the comeback with an unassisted goal. There was a scrum in front of the net, and McGlasson broke free to stick the puck past Fairbanks goalie Phil Cook.
McGlasson continued to play the spark-plug role just 38 seconds later. He barrelled into the Fairbanks zone and controlled the puck before slipping it ahead to Nick Simson. Simson spun and perfectly led Kyle Clay with a cross-ice pass. Clay poked the puck into the back of the net.
Just 27 seconds later, Ryan Lemke skated in all alone on Cook, but yanked his bid for the equalizer just high.
Kenai River found that equalizer with 16:40 to play by converting on their only goal in nine power-play opportunities. McGlasson found Clay behind the net, and Clay used some creative geometry to score his sixth goal of the year. McGlasson ended the evening with four goals and six assists this season.
After that goal, Fairbanks coach Josh Hauge called a tourniquet timeout and the Ice Dogs gradually went back to playing the style that had worked so well for them the first two periods.
With 6:19 to play, Drew Darwitz slid a cross-ice pass to BJ McClellan. McClellan converted his second goal of the game and his second goal in an Ice Dogs uniform.
Kenai River's best chance to tie the game back up came in the final minute. With 53 seconds to play, McClellan was whistled for delay of game.
With the extra attacker, the penalty gave Kenai River a 6-on-4 advantage. Early in the power play, the Brown Bears got three solid opportunities amidst the mass of humanity in front of Cook, but each time the puck failed to find its way past Cook. Cook finished with 37 saves.
The Brown Bears left their third-period woes behind by outshooting Fairbanks 18-5 in the third period, but for the first two periods it was a different story. It was the Ice Dogs frequently winning battles for the puck and outshooting the Brown Bears 28-22.
The Ice Dogs jumped on top in the first period when increasing pressure led to a goal by Eric Kraft. Kraft fired the puck on Kenai River goaltender Jimmy Hamby from the slot. When Hamby flopped to make the save, Kraft took the rebound from his own shot and drove home his second goal of the year.
Fairbanks increased its lead to 2-0 on another unassisted goal. With 1:27 to play in the first, Kenai River forward Casey Kirley found himself in front of his own net needing to clear the puck. Problem was, Kirley did not have a stick. He reached to the ice and flicked the puck with his glove toward center ice. Mark Pustin swooped in and corralled the puck before beating Hamby off the top pipe. It was Pustin's second goal of the year.
Fairbanks increased the lead to 3-0 in the second period. Michael Juola found McClellan in the slot. McClellan sent a wrister past Hamby's stick side.
Kenai River had a couple of good chances to get back in the game. With 8:09 in the second, the Brown Bears had Cook scrambling when the puck squirted out to Kenai River defenseman Robbie Michalka at the point. Michalka fired a shot at the empty net, but Cook -- Supermanlike -- flew through the crease to make the save.
With 5:32 left in the period, the Bears went on a 5-on-3 power play for 1:44, but six shots on net during that advantage failed to beat Cook.
The same two teams play today and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
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