The Minnesota Wilderness stumbled on the penalty kill in the first period and never recovered as the Fairbanks Ice Dogs rolled to a 7-1 win Saturday night.
Fairbanks was perfect on the power play in the opening 20 minutes, as Kevin Marx Noren, Tristan Sarsland and Jake Hale each found the back of the net. That was followed by four more Fairbanks goals in the first 8:40 of the 2nd period. Jack Ring and Billy Renfrew started the rally scoring 30 seconds apart at 5:10 and 5:40.
Those two goals marked the end of the night for Wilderness starting goaltender Matt Smith, who finished the game with 10 saves on 15 shots. Konrad Kausch came in relief, but the Ice Dogs did not let up. They responded with two more quick goals — Ring picking up his 2nd of the game at 7:11, and Braden Lindstrom following 1:29 later to make the score 7-0.
A 2nd half Wilderness push led to the visitors outshooting Fairbanks 14-4 in the 3rd period. Minnesota managed to keep Fairbanks from adding to their lead, but could only muster one goal in their quest for a comeback. That lone Wilderness tally came from Gunnar Thoreson, when he knocked in a rebound with 1:42 remaining in the game for his first 2022 playoff goal. Assisting on the tally was Jared Mangan, with his 2nd of the playoffs, and Ethan Wolthers, with his first.
Kausch held his own in his time in net. After giving up the two goals within the first few minutes of relieving Smith, the veteran netminder kept the Ice Dogs from adding to their lead, finishing the night with 10 saves on 12 shots.
Meanwhile, for Fairbanks, Kayden Hargraves picked up his 2nd straight playoff win, stopping 37 of 38 Wilderness shots, as Minnesota, for the 2nd straight night, outshot Fairbanks, this time by a 38-31 count.
The Fairbanks power play finished the game 3-for-5, and improved to 4-for-8 in the playoffs. The Ice Dogs have also held off the Wilderness in all six of its chances with the man-advantage in the two post-season games.
With the win, the Ice Dogs now hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Midwest Division semi-final series, and can move on to the 2nd round with a win in game 3. That 3rd game will be in Cloquet April 29, with puck drop at Northwoods Credit Union Arena set for 7:15 p.m.