Andrew Bellant scored three goals and the power play units combined for three more to give the visiting Aston Rebels a 6 – 4 win over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in a penalty filled game.
After sweeping a three game series over the Northeast Generals the prior weekend, the Ice Dogs looked to continue the momentum against the East Division leading Rebels. Fairbanks got on the board first at the 10:24 mark of the opening period. Ice Dogs’ forward Ryan Kero won the draw deep inside the Rebels zone. As he went around a Rebels forward he backhanded a pass to a breaking Christian Sanda to the slot. Sanda took a wrist shot that went through the five hole of Rebels netminder Mareks Mitens.
The Rebels would tie the game just thirty nine seconds later. Ryan Solomon took a shot from the point that was blocked in front of the Ice Dogs net. The rebound came out to the far side boards to Michael Underwood. Underwood carried the puck down low and fed a pass to Carter Woolley in the slot. Woolley took a one timer that was saved by Ice Dogs goalie Josh Benson but the rebound came out to Evgeny Yakovlev who put it behind Benson for his ninth goal on the season.
With thirty nine seconds remaining in the first period, Ice Dogs defenseman Marc Sullivan was called for interference. Twenty six seconds later Andrew Bellant would score his first goal of the game. Drew Blackmun won the draw inside the Ice Dogs zone. He passed the puck back to the point to Solomon. As Solomon skated to his left he passed the puck back to his right to Gianluca Esteves. Esteves took a shot that was redirected by Bellant in front of the net and the puck trickled past Benson to give the Rebels a 2 – 1 lead.
Fairbanks defenseman Luke Orysiuk was called for roughing with 8:18 left in the second. With just forty one seconds remaining in the power play, Blackmun picked up the puck in front of the Rebels bench. He passed it back to the point back to Solomon. Solomon passed it over to his left to Underwood who took a one-timer that hit the post and went behind Benson to give the Rebels a 3 – 1 lead with 6:59 remaining in the middle stanza.
With 4:35 left in the period, Fairbanks was called for too many men on the ice. After a save by Benson the puck went to the Rebels nearside boards to Yakovlev. Yakovlev passed the puck back to the point to Gvido Jansons. Jansons passed the puck to his left to Brennan Kapcheck who took a blast from the point that hit the post and went past Benson with 2:46 remaining in the period to give the Rebels a 4 – 1 lead. It was fourteenth goal on the season which is the most by a defenseman in the North American Hockey League.
With time winding down in the second, Solomon was called for tripping. Then with 1:12 remaining Bellant was called for tripping as well putting the Ice Dogs on a 5 on 3. As Solomon’s penalty expired there was a stoppage of play. Grayson Gavin won the draw deep inside the Rebels zone. The puck went back to Nolan Schaeffer. Schaeffer passed the puck to his right to Sullivan. Sullivan passed it back to Schaeffer who took a one-time that beat Mitens short-side to Rebels lead in half with fifteen second left in the period.
At the start of the third Ice Dogs head coach Trevor Stewart tried to kick start a rally as he replaced Benson with Joshua Sarlo. It immediately sent a message to his team. Sanda had the puck down low inside the Rebels zone and he passed it to Gavin in the slot who took a wrist shot that beat Mitens glove side to cut the Rebels deficit to one only forty nine seconds into the final period.
Bellant would put the Rebels back up by two at with 11:02 remaining in the third with a beautiful end-to-end rush. Bellant picked up the loose puck at his own blueline and skated into the neutral zone with a burst of speed. As he entered the Ice Dogs zone he made a brilliant dangle move around a Fairbanks defender and walked in on Sarlo and beat him top shelf for his second goal of the game.
The Rebels would go back on the power play with two and twenty seven remaining when Hampus Eriksson was called for tripping. With 1:48 left in the game, Blackmun kept the puck in the offensive zone along the near side boards. He passed it down low to Bellant who took a hard wrist shot that beat Sarlo high glove hand for this third goal of the game giving him twenty two on the season. It also was the Rebels fourth goal on the power play.
Sam Ruffin scored for Fairbanks with a second left in the game to make it a 6 – 4 game.
Blackmun had three points in the game. Mitens stopped 17 of 21 shots while Benson turned aside 17 of 21 and Sarlo stopped 10 of 12 shots. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels will play the Ice Dogs again tonight at 11:30pm ET which will conclude their Alaskan trip.
Photo credit: The Rebels would like to thank the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for providing photos from last night’s game.