The Fairbanks Ice Dogs spoiled the home opener for the Kenai River Brown Bears with a 5-4 overtime victory Friday in North American Hockey League play at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Ice Dogs coach Dave Allison said. “But our guys showed some resilience and kept at it.”
Allison said the game came down to two big goals. The last two.
The Ice Dogs snapped a three-game losing streak while breaking up Kenai River’s six-game winning streak. The Bears are 9-3-1-0 and remain in first place in the Midwest Division. The Ice Dogs are 8-5-0-0 and move into a tie for second place in the division.
“What happened over the last six weeks had no impact on tonight,” Shaw said. “Our guys, they learn that lesson the hard way. We finally got bit because we didn’t figure out how to finish.”
Fairbanks also got on the board in the Club 49 Cup after being swept by the Anchorage Wolverines last weekend. Anchorage has four, Fairbanks has two and the Brown Bears have one.
The same two teams play tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex.
Fairbanks got the upper hand in the back-and-forth contest by scoring the last two goals.
“We’re still struggling with the idea of getting pucks behind their defense,” Allison said. He said the Brown Bears had great puck management, which they used to “just keep coming.”
With 3:23 left in the game, Billy Renfew tied it for the Ice Dogs at 4 on assists from Cameron Ricotta and Kole Altergott.
“I thought we gave one away there,” Brown Bears coach Taylor Shaw said.
Then, just 23 seconds into overtime, Renfrew won it on an assist from Joey Potter.
“Billy ran for it, got behind their D,” Allison said. “You gotta get pucks, there’s no secret to this game, there just isn’t.”
Kenai River started fast in its home opener, outshooting the Ice Dogs 22-11 in the first period on the way to a 53-36 advantage for the game.
“I thought we did a decent job setting pace, finding a way to put pucks in the net,” Shaw said. “But we can’t give up goals like that, can’t happen, not when you’re trying to win a game, especially at home for 2,000 people.”
Despite the fast start, the scoreboard was 1-all at the end of the first. Kenai River’s Nick Stevens, assisted by Caleb Huffman and Garett Drotts, scored just seconds after a power play expired.
Fairbanks answered with a power-play goal by Domenick Evtimov.
The Bears went up 2-1 just over a minute into the second when Ashton Christman scored on assists from Carson Triggs and Luke Anderson.
With 3:40 left in the second, Colin Goff tied it for Fairbanks, but less than a minute later Drotts, assisted by Bryce Monrean and Colin Doherty, had the Bears ahead 3-2 headed to the third.
Early in the third, Goff tied it for Fairbanks.
With 9:24 left in the game, Kenai’s Parker Lockwood, assisted by Kotaro Tsutsumi and Stevens, put the Bears back ahead. This was Lockwood’s second goal in his third season with the team.
But Renfrew ruined that story with his two goals.
Kayden Hargraves made 49 saves for the Ice Dogs, while Nils Wallstrom stopped 31 for the Bears.
“We got away from the little details, that’s what caused the goals,” Shaw said. For tonight’s rematch, “I’m gonna be a coach and analyze everything and turn the page.”
First period — 1. Kenai River, Stevens (Huffman, Drotts), 7:33; 2. Fairbanks, Evtimov (Welsch, Recine), 11:31. Penalties — Fairbanks 3 for 6:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Christman (Triggs), 1:01; 4. Fairbanks, Goff (Evtimov, Cameron), 16:20; 5. Kenai River, Drotts (Monrean, L. Anderson), 17:11. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Third period — 6. Fairbanks, Goff (un.), 2:55; 7. Kenai River, Lockwood (Tsutumi, Hause), 10:36; 8. Fairbanks, Renfrew (Ricotta, Altergott), 16:37. Penalties — Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Overtime — 9. Fairbanks, Renfrew (Potter), 0:23. Penalties — none.
Shots on goal — Fairbanks 11-12-12-1—36; Kenai River 22-12-18-1—53.
Goalies — Fairbanks, Hargraves (53 shots, 49 saves); Kenai River, Wallstrom (36 shots, 31 saves).