Fairbanks, AK. – Two second period goals by Jacob Hetz were the difference Thursday night, as the Fairbanks Ice Dogs defeated the Wenatchee Wild 3-1 in the first of a three-game West Division showdown in front of 2,242 at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Despite being outshot 16-5 in the opening period, the Wild stayed even at 0-0 with Fairbanks, thanks to a handful of big saves by Robbie Nichols (Dallas, Texas).
Jacob Hetz gave Fairbanks the lead early in the second, assisted by Kyle Lee and Garret Clemment at 2:29 for a 1-0 Ice Dogs advantage. Wenatchee tied the game at 8:05 thanks to some good puck movement that found Chris Kerr (Penticton, British Columbia) for a back door feed into the open side of the net. Kerr’s 17th goal of the season was assisted by Noah Nelson (Oconomowoc, Wisconsin) and Josh Hartley (Coquitlam, British Columbia). Hetz would score again on a turn-around shot from out in front at 9:49, assisted by Clemment, giving Fairbanks a 2-1 lead.
The Ice Dog lead grew early in the third, when Max Birkinbine was fouled from behind on a breakaway, then scored on the ensuing penalty shot at 3:44 for a 3-1 advantage. The Wild would empty the net in the late going but were unable to get the equalizer, with Fairbanks holding on for the 3-1 win.
The Ice Dogs outshot Wenatchee 31-26 on the night. Nichols played well despite allowing 3 goals, making 28 saves for the Wild. Steve Perry had a solid night as well, made 25 saves for Fairbanks. Neither team scored on the power play, Wenatchee in 2 turns, the Ice Dogs in 3 tries. “In the first period they (the Ice Dogs) came out with a lot of jump, really took it to us” said to Wild Head Coach Bliss Littler. “Second and third period I thought we competed pretty hard. The chances they (Fairbanks) had, they made the most of them and we weren’t able to convert on our chances. Our effort in the second and third was pretty good, not good enough in the first.”
Wenatchee’s record moves to 36-9-6 on the season, the Ice Dogs improve to 34-14-3, drawing Fairbanks to within 7 points of the first place Wild in the NAHL’s West Division.
The Wild stays in the Frozen North for five more games starting tomorrow night at Fairbanks (8:30pm PST on Friday and Saturday, March 8th and 9th), before moving on to Kenai River for three games (8:05pm PDT on March 14th, 8:30pm PDT on Friday and Saturday, March 15th and 16th) the following week. The Wild will then close out the regular season with a four-game home-and-home series versus Fresno, with games in Wenatchee on Friday and Saturday, March 22nd and 23rd (7:05pm PDT both nights), then in Fresno on Friday and Saturday, March 29th and 30th (7:35pm PDT both nights). Individual and group game tickets for all remaining home games are on sale now. Call 509.888.PUCK (7825).