WENATCHEE, Wash. – Friday night’s series-opening game at the Town Toyota Center between the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Wenatchee Wild was a defensive battle with a small scoring flurry in the final 8:16 of regulation. In the end the Wild earned the win, 2-1, thanks to a pair of unanswered even-strength goals over the final six-plus minutes of regulation.
During a man-advantage, Ice Dog Patrick Newell scored the first goal of the game with 8:16 remaining in regulation when he lit the lamp on a double-clutch wrist shot from the low inside corner of the near faceoff circle on a pass from Jacob Hetz. Garret Clemment also assisted.
Newell’s goal failed to deflate the Wild, who turned up the intensity over the remainder of regulation and, aided by a little puck luck, earned the 2-1 win in regulation.
Defenseman Josh Hartley tied up the game for the Wild less than two minutes after Newell’s marker when he tickled the twine on a wrister from the slot that beat netminder Steve Perry stick side. Nicholas Kuchera and Nathan Flynn assisted on the game-tying goal.
Max McHugh, who had a couple of scoring chances earlier in the game, notched the game-winner for the Wild with 4:50 remaining in the third stanza. Working right to left in front of the goal, McHugh attempted a backdoor feed, but the pass was deflected and McHugh picked up the biscuit and scored his 10th goal of the season from point-blank range.
“Both teams played pretty well defensively,” said Wild head coach Bliss Littler. “There really weren’t a lot of scoring chances either way. We got a little bit lucky tonight with the puck. ... We need to be better [Saturday].”
Robert Nichols (Dallas, Texas) made 25 saves on 26 shots to earn his 20th win of the season. Perry made 21 saves on 23 shots.
Game 2 of this weekend’s series between the Wild (24-4-2) and Ice Dogs (21-10-1) is Saturday. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Pre-game on KPQ begins at about 6:45 p.m. “I would expect both teams will create more offense [Saturday],” Littler said. “Maybe both teams showed too much respect [Friday].”