FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks Ice Dogs dominated the Topeka Pilots in the opening game of a North American Hockey League series Friday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Four different Ice Dogs players scored goals and netminder Mattias Sholl registered 17 saves as the Ice Dogs skated to a 4-0 victory to pull within five points of the first-place Minnesota Magicians in the Midwest Division standings.
The Ice Dogs outshot the Pilots, of Topeka, Kansas, 43-17 on the night, including a 36-8 advantage in the first two periods.
Pilots goalie Emil Gransoe was outstanding in the opening period, stopping 22 of 23 shots, but the Ice Dogs scored twice in just over a minute early in the second period to take control of the outcome.
The only question after that was whether or not Sholl (6-1-3-1) would collect a shutout.
“I didn’t have that many shots, but when they did have chances I was able to stop them,” Sholl said.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound goalie from Hermosa Beach, California, came up with two big saves in the second period, one on a breakaway and the second on a Pilots 2-on-1 break.
“He was good tonight,” Fairbanks coach Trevor Stewart said. “He had those two big saves in the second period that kept the momentum from changing.”
Sholl credited the Ice Dogs defense for making it a relatively easy night in net.
“The boys played really well in front of me,” Sholl said. “When they play like that, it makes my job pretty easy.”
At the other end of the ice, nothing was easy for Gransoe as the Ice Dogs fired a bevy of shots on the Pilots goaltender in the first period.
Tanner Edwards got the ball rolling for the Ice Dogs when he netted the game’s first goal at the 7:07 mark. Edwards, with assists from Andrew Garby and Luke Ciolli, picked up the puck in the offensive zone and rifled a shot from the left faceoff circle that went between Gransoe’s pads for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Gransoe kept the Pilots in the game for the remainder of the first period, but Fairbanks scored three times in the second to seal the deal.
Defenseman John Stampohar scored his seventh goal of the season at 3:03 of the second period off assists from Edwards and Ciolli.
Just 70 seconds later, Matt Koethe scored his sixth goal of the year with assists from Noah Wilson and Luke Mobley, and the Ice Dogs were on their way to improving their record to 23-14-3-2 for 51 points in the Midwest standings.
Jake Borgida netted his first goal of the year at the 16:31 of the second when he rifled a rebound into a wide open net after Jack Johnston’s blast ricocheted off the pipe. Jax Murray also was credited with an assist on the final goal of the game.
The Ice Dogs and Pilots square off again at 7:30 tonight at the Dipper.
“They’re fighting for their playoff lives so it’s going to be a big job for us to get a win Saturday night,” Stewart said.
The Pilots are 17-20-2-5 for 41 points and fifth place in the South Division.
The top four teams at the end of the regular season in each of the NAHL’s four divisions qualify for the playoffs.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.