After being grounded for most of the night, the Janesville Jets soared past the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in Friday night’s North American Hockey League game.
“I’m pissed off and my players better be, as well,” Fairbanks coach Trevor Stewart said after the Ice Dogs squandered leads of 3-0 and 4-2 and suffered a 5-4 loss to the Jets in Fairbanks home away from home, the Red Baron Arena in Marshall, Minnesota.
“We know we’re in a shortened season and we can’t let points slip away from us like we did tonight,” Stewart said via cell phone following the game “When you outshoot a team 38-20 and score a shorthanded goal and still lose, it’s just unacceptable.”
The loss was exceptionally bitter for Fairbanks as the Ice Dogs are locked in a four-way race for the top spot in the NAHL Midwest Division standings.
The Minnesota Magicians lead the division with 26 points, the Jets are second with 24 points and the Kenai River Brown Bears and Ice Dogs are tied for third with 21.
Following Saturday night’s game against the Jets, the Ice Dogs play four straight games against the Magicians.
Defensive lapses were the main problem for the Ice Dogs Friday night.
“All five of the Janesville goals were the result of mistakes because we were not tracking the puck well,” Stewart said.
The Ice Dogs came out like gangbusters, outshooting the Jets 17-4 in the first period and scoring twice to take a 2-0 lead.
Jake Hale’s sixth goal of the season, at 3:40 of the first period, with assists from Jack Ring and Andrew Garby, gave Fairbanks a 1-0 lead just 3:40 into the game.
Scott McKenzie scored his second goal of the year at the 13:14 mark off assists from Brendan Miles and Austin Becker to put the Ice Dogs up 2-0.
Becker’s eighth goal of the year put Fairbanks ahead 3-0 at 16:52 of the second period with assists going to Bret Link and Tyler Herzberg.
That’s when things started to unravel for the Ice Dogs.
“We were playing great, then we made a couple of mistakes and all of the sudden it was a game again,” Stewart said.
Janesville scored twice in the final 90 seconds of the second period to cut the deficit to 3-2 heading into the final 20 minutes.
Tommy Middleton and Justin Thompson scored at 18:32 and 19:26, respectively, to pull the Jets within a goal.
Fairbanks regained a two-goal lead early in the third period when Ring tallied a short-handed goal at the 3:45 mark, but the Ice Dogs couldn’t keep the momentum going.
“We were playing fine at the start of the third period, killed a penalty and scored a shorthanded goal, and then we made mistakes and gave up three goals,” Stewart said.
The Jets scored on three of their four shots on goal in the third period.
Charlie Schoen scored the first of his two goals at the 5:11 mark to pull the Jets to within a goal and then tied the game with his tenth goal of the year at 14:54.
A little more than a minute later, Thompson scored his second goal of the game and the game-winner at 16:50.
The Ice Dogs outshot the Jets 9-4 in the final 20 minutes.
Janesville goalie Justin Millward stopped 34 shots to claim the win. Ice Dogs goalie Kayden Hargraves had 15 saves in suffering the loss.
Both teams were 0 for 1 on the power play.
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