The Springfield Jr. Blues were not going to be denied on Saturday night.
After being outscored 10-1 in the opening two games of their North American Hockey League series against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, the Jr. Blues got the power play working and skated to a 5-3 victory in front of a packed house at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
On a night when the 50-50 jackpot was more than $16,000, Springfield cashed in on three of its eight power-play chances after going 0-for-14 in the first two games of the three-game series.
“Our penalty kill just didn’t get the job done tonight,” Fairbanks coach Trevor Stewart said outside a somber Ice Dogs locker room. “Our penalty kill has been great all season, but tonight it wasn’t very good.”
The Ice Dogs gave up three goals in the first 12 minutes and 20 seconds and went into the first-period intermission trailing 4-1. The visitors from Springfield, Illinois, made it 5-1 midway through the second period before the Ice Dogs scored the final two goals of the game.
“We got off to a slow start and had to play catch up after that,” Stewart said. “We took a lot of penalties that were unneeded and very selfish.”
Despite the loss, the Ice Dogs remain in first place in the NAHL Midwest Division with a 13-5-0-1 record. Fairbanks is two points ahead of the Kenai River Brown Bears (11-5-1-2), who completed a two-game sweep against the third-place Chippewa Steel, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
“The culture of our hockey program is that we hate to lose more than we love to win,” Stewart said. “This should give us some renewed focus going into our games with Chippewa next weekend.”
The Ice Dogs host the Steel in 7:30 p.m. games Friday and Saturday at the Big Dipper.
Fairbanks had plenty of offensive chances Saturday night, but Springfield goalie Ryan Wilson came up with 24 saves to claim the victory.
“We had some breakaways and odd-man rushes, but I thought their goalie played very well tonight,” Stewart said. “We just didn’t have the puck-luck we had in the first two games.”
Jonathan Panisa had his first two goals of the season in the first period and Max Osborne had a goal in the first and second periods to set the pace for the Jr. Blues offense. Caden Villegas accounted for Springfield’s other goal in the first period.
Oliver Kjaer, Adam Eisele and Matt Koethe accounted for the Ice Dogs goals.
Fairbanks starting goalie Austin Ryman gave up three goals on 11 shots, before giving way to Mattias Sholl, who stopped nine of the 11 shots that came his way.
Springfield improved to 7-9-2-1 on the season to remain in a fourth-place tie with the Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets in the Midwest Division standings.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.