FAIRBANKS-Cliche' to say but it was a total team effort from the NAHL regular season champion Ice Dogs who strike first in the opening game of this Midwest division semifinal series with a stout 3-0 shutout win over the Kenai River Brown Bears tonight.
Ice Dogs fans piled into the Big Dipper Ice arena before the 7:30 puck drop to see the game one of this five game series between the two intrastate rivals. Its a no.1 versus no.4 Midwest division matchup.
In the first period Zach Quinn of Kenai tried his best to keep the puck out of the net as he was harrassed with shots from the Ice Dogs. However, Fairbanks didn't let up on their attack in the first power play of the game for either team midway through the first period.
Doug Rose and Nick Hinz cycle the puck to Tayler Munson who fires a laser on his third shot of that power play and this team he would score breaking the scoreless tie. Kevin Aldridge and the d-corps would blank the Brown Bears and the Ice Dogs lead 1-0 at the end of the first.
Aldridge continued to deny Kenai of goals in the second period while the offense continued to bear down on the Brown Bears. With 4:53 left in the second period the Ice Dogs worked the puck down low as Colton Wolter finds a streaking Lonnie Clary. Clary comes around the back of the net and notices that Quinn is out of position and elects to go for the wrap around goal for the score. The Ice Dogs would take their 2-0 lead into the final period.
Defense would turn into offense for Fairbanks in the third period. After Aldridge again made another stop on a Kenai shot attempt the puck made it's way to the Ice Dogs forwards who took it up the ice into the Kenai zone where Fairbanks was aggressive yet patient all night. Jacob Hetz sent the puck across the ice to Hans Gorowsky to buries it as Fairbanks capatilized on the 2-2 rush. That gave the Ice Dogs a 3-0 lead with 10:49 remaining.
Those three goals were all that Aldridge needed as he stood tall in net. He was on fire in his playoff debut with 23 saves leading the Ice Dogs to a 3-0 shutout victory in game one. Hinz had two assists to lead seven different Ice Dogs players who tallied a point. Munson who scored what would turn out to be the game winner gave props to Aldridge.
"He's going to have to be consistent. He was great tonight. He's our best player, made some unbelievable saves and hopefull he can keep that going," Munson said.
Munson who notched his 25th goal of the year which leads the team felt the start of the game was key.
"I thought we came out and played a good first 10 [minutes] that really set the tone for rest of the game I thought. Our second period was a little down but came back in the third and held the lead so I thought we did good job."
The Ice Dogs controlled the game in the offensive, defensive, and neutral zones and take a 1-0 lead in the series but head coach Trevor Stewart isn't wasn't uber satisfied with his team's performance.
" I don't think we we're overly sharp defensively I think Aldridge was good. We got a couple of good bounces that went our way defensively but I think we definitely need to better tomorrow for sure," Stewart said.
Stewart was happy that his team was able get the win given that playoff hockey usually always makes for low-scoring tighter games.
"Guys worked hard and you know we created some chances and it's playoffs and every game is going to be close and tight and tonight was no exception. You know we weren't that great. We need to be better tomorrow but obviously pleases with a victory."
Game two is Saturday night at 7:30 in the Big Dipper.