Early on in Friday night’s playoff game against the Minnesota Magicians at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, spirits were good.
The mask mandate was over for fully vaccinated people, the Dogs were up two goals, and playoff hockey was back in Fairbanks.
In the span of two minutes and nine seconds, everything seemed to change for the worse.
Two minutes and nine seconds, that’s how long it took for the Magicians to score three unanswered goals in the second period to take the lead. Once they got it, they never let it go as the Ice Dogs started their 2021 NAHL playoff journey with a 6-3 loss at home to fall behind 0-1 in the best-of-five series.
It was a total reverse from the first period when the Dogs seemed to be riding the energy of the crowd. Up 2-0, it seemed like the Dogs had total control. Once they lost that control, they couldn’t get it back.
“We had a good start,” said head coach Trevor Stewart. “The first eight minutes, that was us. Whatever it was, getting too comfortable, not having playoff experience, they took it too us the rest of the game. Basically fifty two minutes it was all them.”
Things got off to as good a start as Fairbanks could’ve hoped for as Jake Hale scored just 2:06 into the game on an assist from Mason Plante. At the 14:49 mark, it was Plante picking up the goal on an assist from Tyler Stewart. Just like that, the Dogs led 2-0.
Then, the 9:52 mark of the second period happened.
That was when Lleyton Roed scored to get the Magicians on the board. 52 seconds later, Brett Oberie scored. 77 seconds after that, Danny Eckerline scored. Just like that, the Dogs lead crumbled into a deficit.
Down 3-2 entering the third period, the Dogs still had a chance to pull off a comeback. Those chances seemed to fade when Oberie scored at the 10:04 mark and evaporate all together when Jake Seitz scored at the 16:10 mark. Evan Junker managed to add a goal on an assist from Stewart and Plante with 37 seconds left in the game, but Lucas Kanta added a goal for Minnesota with seven seconds remaining to make it a 6-3 result.
The bright side is the Dogs will now have a third game at home this weekend. In addition to Saturday’s contest, which ended after press time, Sunday’s game will begin at 5:00 p.m. Stewart was focused on Saturday’s contest before anything else after Friday night’s game.
“We just have to be a lot better,” he said. “We know we’re better than what we showed tonight and we can’t just talk about it. We have to go be about it.”
Tickets for Sunday night’s game will be available at the Ice Dogs office on Sunday and at the door.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.