Ice Dogs Tame Wilderness in Season Opener

Six different goal scorers lit the lamp for Fairbanks Friday night, en route to a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Wilderness in the NAHL season-opener for both teams.

Fairbanks got things started early when McCabe Dvorak scored on the team’s first shot-on-goal just 50 seconds into the opening period.  That was followed by a Cameron Ricotta goal at the 12:12 mark of the first period to put the Ice Dogs up, 2-0.

Fairbanks upped its lead to 3-0 when Gavin Waltz beat Minnesota netminder Isak Posch 7:21 into the 2nd period.

Minnesota then responded with its first goal of the season.  Playing his first Jr. A game, Teddy Merrill fired in a shot as he was falling to the ice from the bottom of the face-off circle to the left of Ice Dog goaltender Kayden Hargraves to make it 3-1.  Jack Hillier and Michael Quinn assisted on the tally which resulted from the Wilderness swarming the Fairbanks net.

But the momentum from that goal did not last long.

Fairbanks countered almost immediately on the next shift when Marc Lund swooped in along the right wing wall and beat Posch top shelf on a shot from the right circle.  Fifteen seconds after the Wilderness scored to make it 3-1, Fairbanks rebuilt its 3-goal lead.

Minnesota added a power play goal toward the end of the period to again cut the lead to 2.   Joe Cesario registered his first goal of his junior hockey career, when he sniped a wrist shot past Hargraves from the middle of the right circle with only 36 seconds left in the period, with Quinn again assisting, along with Ren Morque.

The Wilderness hoped that would carry over to the third period with some added energy, but again, it would not take long for Fairbanks to respond. On its first power play of the evening, Justin Biraben made the score 5-2 with a goal 1:18 into the final frame.  The Ice Dogs then put the game away with just 3:58 left when Kevin Marx Noren lit the lamp.

Leading the way for Fairbanks were Dvorak and Waltz, who both finished with one goal and one assist. Hargraves, beginning his third season of Jr. hockey, had a solid night with 32 saves on 34 shots, as the Wilderness outshot Fairbanks 34-31.

Posch went the distance for Minnesota, losing his first start while making 25 saves.

The game marked the first meeting between the two Midwest Division rivals since last spring’s Midwest Division semi-final, which Minnesota won 3-games-to-2.

The two teams will close out the 2-game weekend series at 7:15 Saturday night in Cloquet.