FAIRBANKS — Friday night belonged to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, thanks to the efforts of goaltender Mattias Sholl and Tanner Edwards and the rest of their teammates.
Edwards scored the game-winning goal and Sholl turned in a spectacular performance in the third period to propel the Ice Dogs to a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Magicians in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division showdown in front of a capacity crowd at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
The victory in the opening game of Military Appreciation Weekend enabled the Ice Dogs (29-15-3-3) to move into a first-place tie with the Magicians (31-17-2-0) heading into the final game of the regular season between the two teams at 7:30 p.m. today at the Dipper.
After giving up the first goal of the game on a 2-on-1 break early in the first period, Sholl stopped everything that the Magicians could throw at him.
In the third period he was outstanding, to say the least.
After losing control of his stick, Sholl managed to swipe the puck out of the air like it was no big deal. Another time he managed to trap the puck between his legs while he was flat on his back.
“You’ve just got to find a way to make the saves, and tonight I was able to do that,” Sholl said outside a jubilant Ice Dogs locker room. “I’m just excited that I got the opportunity to help our team get another win.”
Sholl made 13 saves in the third period and finished the game stopping 31 of the 32 shots that came his way as he improved to 10-1-3-1 on the season.
“He was playing like he was possessed tonight,” Edwards said of Sholl. “It’s like there was a force field around the net tonight. He’s been playing great in goal for us.”
With the score tied at 1 heading into the third period, Edwards gave the Ice Dogs the lead for good with his 10th goal of the year just 1:29 into the final 20 minutes of play.
Edwards gathered in a pass from Noah Wilson and fired a shot from the left faceoff circle past Minnesota goaltender Ethan Haider, who played an outstanding game in his own right.
“I’ve practiced that shot a million times and tonight it went in,” Edwards said. “Wilson gave me a great pass.”
Andrew Garby also assisted on the game-winning goal.
Edwards said moving back into a tie for first place tie in the Midwest Division standings was huge for the Ice Dogs as they head into the regular season home stretch.
“If we can play every game the way we played tonight, I think we can go a long ways into the playoffs this year,” Edwards said.
Minnesota got on the scoreboard first when Konner Lundeen ripped a shot past Sholl at 6:06 of the first period, but that was the only time the Magicians were able to get the puck past the Fairbanks goalie.
Although the Ice Dogs had several good scoring chances, they didn’t get on the scoreboard until 14:06 of the second period, when John Stampohar pounded a power-play goal into the net off assists from Jonathan Sorenson and Jax Murray.
With the exception of the two goals he allowed, Minnesota netminder Haider stopped 32 of the 34 shots that came in his direction.
Heading into tonight’s game at the Dipper, the Ice Dogs and Magicians are five points ahead of the third-place Janesville Jets and six points ahead of the Springfield Jr. Blues.
Janesville kept pace with the leaders by posting a 1-0 win Friday night at the Kenai River Brown Bears.
The Ice Dogs have beaten the Magicians three straight times.
Contact the News-Miner sports department at 459-7586.