The Fairbanks Ice Dogs ended one bad streak and kept their winning streak alive on Saturday night at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The Ice Dogs scored the first goal of the game for the first time in at least six games and skated to a 2-1 victory over the Janesville Jets to sweep the three-game North American Hockey League Midwest Division series.
Fairbanks opened the three-game series with a 9-2 rout of the Jets on Thanksgiving night, but found the going much tougher the next two nights, winning both games by the same 2-1 score.
“It was huge for us to win this series, especially after losing three games against Kenai (River) last weekend,” Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said. “It was good for our confidence and know we need to carry that over into our final three series before the Christmas break to set ourselves up for the second half of the season.”
With the win, the Ice Dogs improved to 17-8-0-2 on the season, putting them in second place behind the Kenai River Brown Bears, who were playing the Minnesota Magicians on Saturday night.
The Ice Dogs host the Magicians in 7:30 p.m. games this Friday and Saturday, before ending the first half of the season on the road for three games at Janesville (Dec. 12-14) and games at the Chippewa Steel, in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, on Dec. 20, and Minnesota Magicians on Dec. 21.
Fairbanks struck first on Saturday night when Luke Ciolli scored his eighth goal of the season completing a 2-0 break with Matt Koethe.
The breakaway opportunity occurred after two Jets defenders collided and fell down at the blue line. Koethe took the puck down the left side and drew Janesville goalie Grant Riley his way before flipping the puck to Ciolli, who put it into a wide open net just 3:05 into the game.
Brendan Murphy also received an assist on the opening goal.
That lead lasted into the second period, when the Jets evened the score as Jake Dunlap decked Ice Dogs goalie Mattias Sholl and slipped the puck into the net at the 4:44 mark.
Koethe scored the game-winner at 11:02 of the second period when he notched his ninth goal of the year off assists from Jasper Lester and Bret Link.
Both goaltenders turned in outstanding performances to keep their teams in the game.
Sholl improved to 14-7-0-2 on the year by stopping 17 shots, including four in the last two minutes when the Jets had pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker.
Riley was sharp in the net for the Jets, stopping 36 shots, including 32 in the first two periods.
The Ice Dogs continued to struggle on the power play, going 0-for-7 on the night.
“Obviously we’ve got to get better on the power play, but we were missing three key guys this weekend so there was a bit of adversity there,” Stewart said. “Still, I thought our guys responded well and we wound up winning or tying every period in the series.”
The Ice Dogs were missing Parker Brown and Lucas Erickson due to injury and Oliver Kjaer, who is playing for Team Denmark at the World Junior Championships.
Stewart said he wasn’t exactly sure when any of those players would be available to rejoin the active roster.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 458-7586.