The Minnesota Wilderness outshot and out-chanced the 1st place Fairbanks Ice Dogs tonight, but that was not enough for victory. In front of a capacity crowd at Red Baron Arena, Fairbanks got clutch goaltending from Kayden Hargraves and timely scoring from 5 different players to skate away with a 5-3 victory.
Hargraves finished with 37 saves in the contest to pick up his 12th victory of the season. His game was strong early, as he kept the Wilderness off the scoreboard in the 1st period, despite his team being outshot 14-6. Meanwhile, Fairbanks managed to take control of the game in the 2nd period with 2 quick goals thanks to some pressure in front of the Wilderness net. The first came from Jake Hale 7:53 into the frame, and that was followed by Cameron Ricotta scoring 1:25 later to make it 2-0.
The Wilderness finally managed to get one past Hargraves while on the power play 1:47 after Ricotta’s goal. Will Persson scored his 12th of the season when he fired one in from the left face-off circle off a rebound from Cole Crusberg-Roseen.
However, the one-goal deficit did not last long. Fairbanks scored to make it 3-1 just 2:01 later on a goal from Nolan Cunningham.
The Wilderness continued to battle in the 3rd period. Ethan Wolthers made the score 3-2 on a goal 1:03 into the final frame for his 9th of the season.
They kept the score close through most of the 3rd despite Fairbanks getting a 2-man advantage power-play for 37 seconds. The Wilderness managed to kill that penalty, but were victimized by another Fairbanks power-play later on. After drawing a penalty from Crusberg-Roseen for holding, Owen Neuharth scored what ended up being the game-winner in a shot from the slot with 4:08 left.
The Wilderness would get one more while short-handed with an extra attacker, when Bobby Metz knocked in his own rebound with 30 seconds left in regulation. However, they would not get any closer, as Fairbanks closed out the scoring with an empty net tally with 0.7 left on the clock from Jack Ring.
Graham Burke took the loss in net in his first start with the Wilderness, stopping 24 of 28 Fairbanks shots. The loss is the 4th straight for Minnesota, and drops their record to 13-11-1 on the season. Meanwhile, Fairbanks won its 3rd straight and improved to 17-8-1.
The rematch in the weekend set will be Saturday night with puck drop at 7:30pm.