Another big play from Luke Ciolli, another win for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
The veteran forward delivered the game-winning goal during a short-handed situation in the third period, and the Ice Dogs edged the expansion New Mexico Ice Wolves in Friday night’s opener of a North American Hockey League series in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ciolli, during a 2-on-2 rush, scored at 14:05 of the third in the Outpost Ice Arena with assists from Matt Koethe and Dylan Abbott.
“Ciolli drove the net and Koethe slipped a pass to him, and it found Ciolli’s stick and (shot) went over the goalie’s shoulder,” Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart said by phone.
In last Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win, Ciolli scored the game-tying goal with 13 seconds left in third period and he had an assist on Adam Eisele’s game-winning goal with 37 seconds left in overtime.
“That’s what we need from him,” Stewart said of Ciolli’s contributions during the road the trip.
“I think he was maybe fighting it a little early in the season, but he’s a phenomenal last couple of games for us. We need him to continue.”
Fairbanks native Nick Ostbloom scored his first goal as a member of the team, and goaltender Matias Sholl registered 27 saves in the Ice Dogs’ third win in their last four games.
The Ice Dogs improved their second-place record in the Midwest Division to 10-4-0-1 for 21 points in the standings. Fairbanks is only a point behind the Chippewa Steel, who won 8-1 over the defending Robertson Cup champions Aberdeen (South Dakota) Wings on Friday night in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
Ostbloom scored the first goal of the new rivalry at 11:36 of the first period. Bret Link provided the assist.
New Mexico’s Spencer Rudrud evened the score at 11:32 of the second period with an assist from Sean Henry.
The Ice Wolves came into the series with a 1-13-0-1 record for last place among seven teams in the South Division. New Mexico, however, gave Fairbanks one of its toughest challenges of the season.
“They played hard, they’ve got some good players,” Stewart said. “They’ve got a really good fan base. This organization is going to be successful moving forward.
“We found a way to win, and any time you find a way to win, you’re pretty excited. We’ve got some work to do to hopefully end this road swing on the right note.”
Josh Graziano registered 48 saves for the Ice Wolves, who host the Ice Dogs again at 5 p.m. AKDT today. The series finale can be seen in Fairbanks at the Finish Line Restaurant in the LaQuinta Inn and Suites by Wyndham, 4920 Dale Road off Airport Way.
After the New Mexico series, the Ice Dogs return home to the Big Dipper Ice Arena for two Midwest series.
Fairbans hosts the Springfield (Illinois) Jr. Blues at 7 p.m. Thursday and at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Chippewa visits the Big Dipper at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.