West Division Semi-Final, Game #5
Kenai River Brown Bears 2 @ Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3 (Fairbanks wins series, 3-2)
It was an epic series that came down to the final minute, but in the end it was the Fairbanks Ice Dogs pulling out the last-minute victory in front of a sold out crowd in Fairbanks to move onto the West Division Finals against Wenatchee.
It was the Brown Bears who had things under control in the first two periods of the contest. A 1st period power play goal by Albin Karlsson and a second period goal by Zack Zulkanycz gave the Brown Bears a 2-0 lead and goalie Marcus Zelzer looked unbeatable after stopping the first 19 Fairbanks shots that came his way.
But the Ice Dogs came out with a new energy in the third period and dominated play for much of the final 20 minutes.
Fairbanks finally broke through at the 8:53 mark of the third period when Colton Wolter drove hard to the net, chipped the puck over a Kenai defenseman’s stick to Devin Loe, who buried the puck into the net.
Wolter made a nice play to score the second goal, as he barely kept the puck alive at the blueline and sent a shot through a myriad of players and traffic that somehow found its way past a screened Zelzer to tie the game at 2-2.
The game appeared headed for overtime with a face-off deep in the Fairbanks zone with just over a minute remaining. The Ice Dogs won the draw and chipped the puck out past a pinching Brown Bears defenseman to set up a 3 on 2 rush.
Garret Clemment feed the puck in front to Duggie Lagrone who had his chance stopped by a sprawled Zelzer, but Jayson Angus was there to pick up the loose puck and rebound and put a shot home for the Ice Dogs first lead of the night with just 1:03 remaining in the game.
Zelzer made 33 saves in the loss and Steve Perry made 29 saves in the win.
The victory puts the Ice Dogs in the best-of-five NAHL West Division Championship Series starting Friday and Saturday in Wenatchee. Games 3 and 4, if necessary, will be played at the Big Dipper on May 3 and 4. If a fifth game is necessary, it will be played in Wenatchee on a date to be determined.