The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, head coach Trevor Stewart said, started strongly against the Bismarck Bobcats on Saturday afternoon in the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Ice Dogs only trailed 1-0 after the first period of the final game for both teams in the four-day tournament in Schwan’s Super Rink.
“We created some momentum and (scoring) chances. Guys were pressing and aggressive,’” Stewart said by phone. “We had to kill off a five-minute major (penalty); we did an excellent job.”
The rest of the game didn’t go so well, as the Ice Dogs emerged with a 4-0 loss to the Bobcats, of North Dakota and the NAHL’s Central Division.
The Ice Dogs, the reigning Robertson Cup national runners-up and Midwest Division regular and postseason champions, lost two players to penalties and got outshot — 28-23 — for the first time in this week’s Showcase.
Another first for Fairbanks in the Schwan’s Super Rink was it allowed a power-play goal after denying 11 man-advantage sessions.
“Going down 1-0 in the first period, they get a goal that we’d like back,” Stewart said. “In the second period, we kind of lost a little bit of focus.
“From there, there was obviously a little bit of frustration built in from not scoring a lot of goals. It just kind of compounded and we put ourselves in a bad situation.”
Goaltender Matias Sholl made 24 saves Saturday for the 1-3-0-0 Ice Dogs, who were coming off Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings. Aberdeen beat Fairbanks in last season’s Robertson Cup final in Blaine’s Fogerty Ice Arena.
Before the back-to-back losses by shutout, the Ice Dogs defeated the Maryland Black Bears 2-0 Thursday after starting the Showcase with a 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Titans on Wednesday.
The five-minute power play, which Fairbanks killed Saturday, occurred after rookie defenseman Jasper Lester was assessed a major and game misconduct for a contact-to-the-head penalty at 14:03 of the first period.
Veteran defenseman Dylan Abbott received a misconduct for abuse of an official at 12:35 of the third period.
Will Hillman bolstered Bismarck’s shutout win with a hat trick, while Austin Jouppi had three assists and Ryan Ullan denied Fairbanks’ 23 shots.
Hillman scored at 9:22 of the first with assists from Jouppi and Grant Johnson.
George Grannis, with help from Willy Stauber, made it 2-0 at 2:10 of the second.
Hillman scored consecutively in the third period, capped by the power-play tally at 11:35. Jouppi and Nicolas Appendino assisted Hillman at 8:50 of the third and Jouppi had the helper on the power-play goal.
The Ice Dogs head to Janesville, Wisconsin, to take on Midwest Division rival Janesville Jets at 4:05 p.m. AKDT Friday and Saturday. The games can be seen in Fairbanks at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 4920 Dale Road, off Airport Way.
Former Ice Dogs center Patrick Newell had a takeaway and 9 minutes, 50 seconds of ice time for the New York Rangers in Friday’s 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in an NHL exhibition game.
If Newell, a former St. Cloud State University player, is on the Rangers’ opening-day roster, he’ll be the first former Ice Dog to begin an NHL regular season.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter: @newsminersports.