The Fairbanks Ice Dogs notched a weekend sweep over the Kenai River Brown Bears in North American Hockey League play at the Big Dipper in Fairbanks.
The Dogs won 5-2 on Friday and 6-2 on Saturday.
The Ice Dogs move to 10-1-1, while the Bears fall to 1-11-0. Fairbanks also takes a 4-0 lead in the Ravn Alaska Cup, the seasonlong battle for supremacy between Alaska’s only NAHL teams.
“Our guys competed for the entire hockey game,” Kenai River head coach Geoff Beauparlant said after Friday’s loss. “Overall, we played a much better game as a team than we had been playing.
“We took a step forward tonight.”
The Big Dipper is one of the toughest places in the league to play, and the customary sellout crowd of 2,242 was present for the home opener.
“I thought our guys handled the pressure and the atmosphere extremely well,” Beauparlant said.
The coach said Kenai River missed some great chances early, but the Ice Dogs’ Marc Sullivan had the first period’s lone goal.
In the second period, Liam Stirtzinger scored on the power play for a 2-0 lead, but Jeffrey Fasegha, assisted by Mathias Tellstrom and Cameron Cook, made it 2-1 headed into the third period.
With 14 minutes, 47 seconds, to play, Cayden Cahill made it 3-1 Fairbanks.
In the next five minutes, Logan Coomes would score short-handed and Cahill would put home another for a 5-1 game.
“To me, special teams was the difference,” Beauparlant said. “That short-handed goal was a big point in the game.”
The coach said his team won the final portion of the game, with Cook scoring a power-play goal with helpers from Fasegha and Dylan McArthur.
“They showed a lot of character when it was 5-1,” Beauparlant said. “We wanted to play a hard last 10 minutes, and we ended up winning it.
“It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing because of the way we played at the end of the last couple of games.”
Beauparlant said forwards Evan Butcher and Justin Bofshever were solid, while he said the defensemen also played well except for taking too many chances after Fairbanks’ third goal.
Saturday’s game ended just before the Clarion went to press. Due to technical difficulties, stats were not available.
The Bears get back in action on Oct. 23 and 24, when they host the Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Tomahawks.
Notes: The Bears have traded forward Richie McCartney to the Tier III Eastern Hockey League. Beauparlant said McCartney didn’t want to be a part of the Bears anymore and wanted the opportunity to earn more ice time out East. …
With Tanner Schachle playing for the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and Colton Fletcher having appeared in games for the Great Falls (Montana) Americans of the NA3HL, Beauparlant was ready to discuss why the pair was put on suspension by the Brown Bears on July 15.
“It was due to a violation of team policy,” Beauparlant said. “We want players that want to play here and be a part of the community, and not have this be a second or third option.
“They wanted to seek opportunities elsewhere. We allow that to an extent, but not where you’re allowed to try out for four or five different teams.”
The coach said the Bears allow players to try out for higher levels like the United States Hockey League, but with restrictions based on where it’s realistic for a player to end up. He said those restrictions are worked out in meetings between the coaching staff and player.
Ice Dogs 5, Brown Bears 2
Kenai River 0 1 1 —2
Fairbanks 1 1 3 —5
First period — 1. Fairbanks, Sullivan (Mehnert, Baumann), 2:42. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00; Fairbanks 1 for 2:00.
Second period — 2. Fairbanks, Stirtzinger (Tomberlin, McPheters), 6:59; 3. Kenai River, Fasegha (Tellstrom, Cook), 10:34. Penalties — Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Third period — 4. Fairbanks, Cahill (Tomberlin, Stirtzinger), 5:13; 5. Fairbanks, Coomes (Burgess, McPheters), sh, 7:20; 6. Fairbanks, Cahill (Cross, Ingman), 9:42; 7. Kenai River, Cook (Fasegha, McArthur), pp, 15:55. Penalties — Kenai River 4 for 19:00; Fairbanks 6 for 23:00.
Shots on goal — Kenai River 5-10-8—23; Fairbanks 16-11-13—40.
Goalies — Kenai River, Baker (40 shots, 35 saves); Fairbanks, Nieto (23 shots, 21 saves).
Power plays — Kenai River 1 for 4; Fairbanks 1 for 5.