A 2-goal Minnesota Wilderness lead in the 2nd period vanished quickly Saturday night as the Fairbanks Ice Dogs responded with four unanswered goals to win 5-3 in the finale of a two-game weekend series.
Justin Biraben led Fairbanks with two goals, and the Wilderness had trouble with the league’s top power-play, as the Ice Dogs finished 2-for-3 on the man-advantage.
Fairbanks turned up the heat to start the game, and for the first time, the Wilderness found themselves trailing in a road game. Biraben put the Ice Dogs in front when he received the puck directly in front of the Wilderness net, spun and whipped the puck past Konrad Kausch’s glove side just 5:06 into the game.
The Ice Dogs finished the period outshooting Minnesota, 17-6, but not with the lead. The Wilderness tied the game when Eddie Shepler scored on a quick pinpoint shot from the center of the right circle that snuck just between goaltender Kayden Hargraves and the left post. The goal, assisted by Ren Morque and Noah Griswold, was Shepler’s 7th of the season and 2nd of the weekend.
A wild 2nd period saw the teams combine for five goals. Two Wilderness goals just 2:10 apart put Minnesota ahead 3-1 for a short time. Reid Daavettila gave Minnesota the lead when he re-directed a Michael Quinn shot from the right point into the back of the net at the 5:48 mark for his 2nd of the season. That was followed by Kevin Marx Noren jumping on a rebound of a Joe Cesario shot directly in front of the Fairbanks net to make it a 2-goal game. It was the team-leading 9th of the season for Marx Noren and first against his old team that traded him to the Wilderness on September 15.
Fairbanks then answered with three goals in a 3:31 span. Billy Renfrew kicked it off with a power play goal that went in off the stick of Quinn as he was helping defensively in front of the Wilderness net (similar to a goal in Friday’s game that Shepler redirected into the Minnesota goal). A turnover in the Wilderness zone then led to Fairbanks’ tying goal – the second of the game for Biraben. The Ice Dogs then re-took the lead when Jake Cameron sent a shot from along the extended goal line that deflected off Kausch’s back and into the net.
That allowed the Ice Dogs to head to the locker room up by a goal despite being outshot in the middle frame, 16-6.
Fairbanks would seal the victory when a power play goal from Domenick Evtimov made it 5-3 with 6:51 remaining in the final period. The Wilderness had chances in the third, outshooting Fairbanks 11-9, but Hargraves was solid, keeping the Wilderness off the scoreboard to preserve the victory.
The loss snaps Minnesota’s 4-game winning streak, which spanned the team’s first four road games of the season. It also splits the series with Fairbanks (13-8-2), after the Wilderness (11-6-2) won Friday, 2-1.
Kausch made 27 saves and suffered his first regulation loss since his first meeting with Fairbanks on September 10. The Duluth native’s record fell to 4-2-1.
On the power-play, Minnesota finished with one goal on three chances.
Minnesota next heads back to the lower 48, and will head to Chippewa Falls, WI, for two games next weekend. Game 1 vs. the Chippewa Steel is set for Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m.