Special teams made a difference for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Thursday night.
The Ice Dogs scored a pair of power-play goals and added an empty-net score to give veteran goaltender Mattias Scholl his first shutout of the season in claiming a 3-0 North American Hockey League victory against the Springfield Jr. Blues in front of a smaller-than normal but boisterous crowd at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Scholl improved to 9-4-0-1 on the season as he stopped 25 shots and helped the Ice Dogs kill off six penalties.
“I was just playing to win, but it was nice to see that zero up on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Scholl said. “We played great defense tonight, so all I had to do was do my job.”
Scholl’s shutout boosted the Ice Dogs first-place record in the NAHL Midwest Division to 12-4-0-1. Third-place Springfield fell to 6-8-2-1 on the season.
“Our penalty kill has been one of our strengths this season and it was very good again tonight,” Scholl said. “Any time your special teams are clicking on all cylinders, you give yourself a good chance to win the hockey game.”
Oliver Kjaer scored a pair of goals to give him seven on the season and Jack Johnston’s power-play goal in the first period proved to be the game-winner and team-high ninth goal of the year.
“It’s about time and it feels really good,” said Kjaer, a rookie from Esbjerg, Denmark. “We’re moving the puck and doing the things we talk about in practice on the power play, and it worked well tonight.”
Thursday’s triumph was the fifth straight for the Ice Dogs.
“The boys are confident they can get the job done,” Kjaer said.
Johnston opened the scoring when he found the back of the net from close range at 19:15 of the first period.
The goal, assisted by Trenton Woods and Jasper Lester, came just 25 seconds after Springfield’s Hugh Quinn was ticketed for hooking.
Kjaer’s power-play goal came at 5:04 of the second period when he drilled a shot from the left point past Springfield goaltender Ryan Wilson. Parker Brown and Dylan Abbott picked up the assists on the goal, which came on a 5-minute power play after Springfield’s Jackson Salt received a major for kneeing and a game-misconduct.
Kjaer’s second goal of the night and seventh goal of the year came at 18:48 of the third after Springfield pulled Wilson to add an extra attacker.
“I’m not sure what happened but the puck came right to my stick and I just put it in the net,” Kjaer said.
Wilson was credited with making 19 saves on the night.
The Ice Dogs and Jr. Blues renew their rivalry at 7:30 tonight at the Dipper and wrap up the three-game series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.