FAIRBANKS-In any sport big time players make big time plays. The Ice Dogs are arguably the best team in the NAHL but the Brown Bears might have the best player.
On Saturday night Kenai forward Alec Butcher-the NAHL leader in points showed up in a nasty and physical game two. They were 45 combined penalty minutes on 8 infractions from both teams and former Ice Dog Ben Campbell was even ejected from the game. Butcher scored the first goal of the game at the 8:54 mark of the second period. Ice Dog defenseman Wyatt Ege was able to tie game with less than two minutes left in the period for his third tally of the season all the way from the neutral zone. But Butcher had a quick response scoring with 15 seconds left to give the Browns Bears a 2-1 leading going into the third. The Ice Dogs rallied with a goal from Johnny Mueller after the Jacob Hetz and Todd Burgess assists with 13 minutes left in the game. Fairbanks put 45 shots on goal and just flat out missed on some good chances. Quinn also made 43 saves robbing the Dogs of opportunities as this would go into overtime. Kenai was aggressive getting 18 of their 29 shots in the third period and overtime. It came down to a power play and the only one Kenai converted happened to be the game winner. Butcher scored his third goal of the night for the hat trick at the 11:15 mark of overtime.Kenai goes back home to host the Ice Dogs in game 3 with the series all tied at one. "Huge momentum swing after the penalty kill and we've been playing great and going on the power play we knew that was our chance to capitalize and you know, I was the luck guy," Butcher said. Butcher also talked about Quinn's 43 save performance. "Zach Quinn, he's number 31, been playing well all season. We know he can win us games as long as we put pucks to the net and stay behind him." "I think big time players show up when needed most and he definitely did that tonight but he didn't do it alone," Brown Bears head coach Geoff Beauparlant said of Butcher. Beauparlant was the Ice Dogs assistant coach last season. "It took a full team effort. We really wanted to come in and get a game, we accomplished that goal and we move back home starting Tuesday." After Saturday's loss the Ice Dogs have had a chance to rest and reassess some things at practice today going into a critical game three in this best of five series. Game three is tomorrow night and Game four is Wednesday night so a quick turn-around.This time the Ice Dogs will be on the road. They leave this evening just before 7 pm. The last time Fairbanks was in the Soldotna Sports Center they split two games as well. Fairbanks won 3-2 in a shootout on Friday and lost 2-4 on Saturday on Mar 21 and 22. Head coach Trevor Stewart believes his team will get back to the basics and Viktor Liljegren reminds us that the Ice Dogs can and have won in Soldotna this season. "We end up always playing good in Kenai I want to say we have seven wins out of eight down there you know, so I think we're all confident in what we're going to do down there. Game three in a playoff is really important," Liljegren said. Stewart believes some minor adjustments will make a difference in game three. "Having a better net presence offensively and defending out net defensively. I think those are kind of the two things that stood out to us." "We can't put our back against the wall on Tuesday so we got to come prepared and just play our game," Burgess said.