Ethan Benz was the last of 12 participants for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in a shootout against the Minnesota Magicians on Friday night.
The veteran left wing’s attempt hit a skate of Magicians goaltender Samuel Vyletelka, and the visitors prevailed 2-1 in the first North American Hockey League game this season at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, the Ice Dogs’ home rink.
The teams were tied 1-1 in regulation and a 4-on-4, five-minute overtime period before they engaged in the shootout.
The shootout miss affected the way Benz mentally approached Saturday’s second game of the Midwest Division series.
“Honestly, I just wanted another chance,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound native of Shakopee, Minnesota, said by phone Wednesday night.
“It’s always tough going last in a shootout. I wanted another chance to get a win and prove myself.”
Both aspirations were accomplished Saturday night, as Benz contributed two goals to the Ice Dogs’ 4-1 win.
The 18-year-old’s first two goals as an Ice Dog occurred in the second period after the division rivals were scoreless in the first period.
Benz provided the game’s first goal at 3:07 of the second, with assists from veteran forward Tyler Deweese and first-year Ice Dogs forward Adam Eisele. After the Magicians’ Marko Reifenberger tied the score at 1 at 6:11, Benz registered the game-winning goal at 7:59 with assists from rookie defenseman Jasper Lester and rookie forward Nicholas Ostbloom.
Benz skated on a line with right wing and Ice Dogs newcomer Bret Link and Ostbloom, a center.
“Both of them see the ice well,”Benz said.
Benz is the 10th-leading scorer for the Ice Dogs, with two goals and an assist for three points in nine games.
It’s triple the amount of games he played when he joined the Tier II junior A team late last season.
“It was huge coming to the team last year (season); absolutely huge,” Benz said. “I got to travel with the team, I got to be comfortable with the coaching staff. That really sparked that fire (for training camp).”
He participated in training camp at the Big Dipper this summer and earned a roster spot.
“He was a player that we scouted last fall (2018) and we recognized his ability,” Stewart said. “He’s a great team guy. He’s a rookie this season, but we’ve been able to work with him since late last season, when he came up and was a late addition to the roster.
“It’s good to see him get rewarded on the scoresheet.”
LaQuinta Inn and Suites and First Student Bus Company are the sponsors of the Ice Dogs’ Midwest Division series against the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt said several giveaways are planned during intermissions both nights. There also will be qualifying for the Odom Corporation/Coors Light four-wheeler and an Apple Watch from GCI.
Proffitt said, too, that because there was no winner for last Saturday’s 50-50 drawing, the amount will start at $7,295 on Friday.
“I would expect to climb above at least $20,000,” he said by phone Wednesday.
A 50-50 drawing last season exceeded $40,000.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports