A torrid second period lifted the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to a 5-1 victory over the Kenai River Brown Bears on Sunday in North American Hockey League play in front of 247 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Ice Dogs scored all five of their goals in the second to assure a three-game road sweep over the Bears.
Fairbanks moves to 16-2-1 and has the best record in the league, while the Bears fall to a league-worst 1-18-0. Kenai River also has gone a franchise-high 16 games without a win or a point.
The Ice Dogs now lead the Ravn Alaska Cup, the battle for supremacy between the Dogs and Bears, 7-0. The squads play 16 times in a season, so Fairbanks needs two more wins to wrap up the cup.
“It’s always nice when you can get wins away from home,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said. “The guys stepped up in the second and third period.”
The Bears got on the board first Sunday when Jack Gessert shot into traffic, somehow recovered the puck from a jumble of sticks, then shot again past Fairbanks goalie CJ Boothe.
“I think too often we’re waiting for the perfect shot,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said. “You’re not going to score on the first shot many times in this league.
“That was a great second-effort goal by Jack.”
The Bears were outshot 13-8 in the first period, but Beauparlant said his team was able to keep the shots coming from the outside and stay up 1-0.
That changed in the second period.
“Whether it was on the rush or in our defensive-zone coverage, Fairbanks was able to get to the net in the second,” Beauparlant said.
The goals came quickly — Ryner Gorowsky at 16:19, Liam Stirtzinger at 10:24, Luke Orysiuk at 7:04, Gorowsky again at 2:26 and Cayden Cahill with 20 seconds left.
“They have to be able to, with our help, find a way to get through those lulls in the game,” Beauparlant said.
The coach said the game was really a simple tale of the teams being on even footing in the first and third periods when the Bears stuck to the game plan, and Fairbanks pulsing the lamp in the second period when the plan was abandoned.
“It is that simple,” Beauparlant said. “I said to the players, ‘When you played the way I asked you to and taught you to, it was 1-0 after the first and 0-0 in the third.’
“When they played outside the structure of what they were asked to do, it was 5-0 Fairbanks. It came down to compete level and in the second period, they out-competed us.”
The score was 3-1 with 9:33 left in the second period when the Bears had to kill off 1:45 of a five-on-three power play.
Beauparlant said the defense did a good job blocking shots, and goalie Brian Baker made nice saves in killing off the penalty.
“That should have given us energy, but instead they came back and scored after the power play,” Beauparlant said.
The coach called that a key goal because a 3-1 deficit heading into the third is much more manageable than 4-1 or 5-1.
“There are a lot of what ifs, and they need to stop being what ifs,” Beauparlant said. “It needs to be, ‘This is what happened.’
“We need to compete and sustain our structure for 60 minutes.”
Baker had 29 saves for the Bears, while Boothe stopped 18 for the Ice Dogs.
The Bears host the Coulee Region (Wisconsin) Chill on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the sports complex.
Fairbanks 0 5 0 —5
Kenai River 1 0 0 —1
First period — 1. Kenai River, Gessert (un.), 17:48. Penalties — Fairbanks 1 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 4:00.
Second period — 2. Fairbanks, Gorowsky (Coomes, Burgess), 3:41; 3. Fairbanks, Stirtzinger (Plunkett, Kleven), 9:36; 4. Fairbanks, Orysiuk (Tomberlin, Stirtzinger), 12:56; 5. Fairbanks, Gorowsky (Burgess), 17:34; 6. Fairbanks, Cahill (Coomes, Burgess), 19:40. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Third period — none. Penalties — Fairbanks 2 for 4:00; Kenai River 1 for 2:00.
Shots on goal — Fairbanks 13-14-7—34; Kenai River 8-4-7—19.
Goalies — Fairbanks, Boothe (19 shots, 18 saves); Kenai River, Baker (34 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Fairbanks 0 for 4; Kenai River 0 for 4.