Forward Evgeny Yakovlev had two points and goaltender Jack Leavy stopped 24 shots to lead the Rebels to a 5 – 2 win over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, which completed a weekend sweep over the defending North American Hockey League champions.
Like the traffic outside due to the inclement weather, the Rebels play in the first period wasn’t pretty. In fact, the team only had three shots on goal in the opening stanza. The Ice Dogs continued their neutral zone trap from the previous night and applied constant pressure throughout.
The Ice Dogs would score their first goal of the weekend at the 5:38 mark of the period. Fairbanks’ defenseman Dean Hewines brought the puck up the far side boards and passed it ahead to Nick Rogers. As Rogers was about to be hit at the boards he made a pass to his right across the goalmouth as Hunter Wendt got behind a Rebels defenseman and redirected Rogers pass into the net past Leavy to give the visitors a 1 – 0 lead.
Despite their lackluster play in the first, the Rebels were able to tie the game with nine minutes left in period. Carter Woolley intercepted an Ice Dogs pass at his own blue line and skated down the far side boards. He took a howitzer of a shot that hit the post and went behind Fairbanks goalie Joshua Sarlo. It was the Rebels first shot of the game.
While the Rebels play improved in the second period there was a lot of up and down play with minimal stoppages. With only thirty five seconds left in the period, Gianluca Esteves put the Rebels up 2 – 1 and the team never looked back. Esteves picked off a pass deep inside his own zone and passed it up to Aaron Maguyon. Maguyon skated the puck into the neutral zone and sent a bounce pass off the near side boards where it was picked up by Yakovlev. Yakovlev carried the puck inside the Fairbanks zone. He brought it out in front of the net and made a shot that was saved by Sarlo but the rebound came out to Esteves who put it past the Ice Dogs netminder for his eleventh goal of the season.
The Rebels would go up 3 – 1 at 2:55 of the third period. Ryan Solomon was at his own far side face off circle and sent a long pass up to Yakovlev. Yakovlev brought the puck behind the Ice Dogs net where he was promptly triple teamed. The puck was ultimately was picked up by an Ice Dogs’ defenseman. Drew Blackmun intercepted the breakout pass and sent the puck to Andrew Bellant. Bellant took a wrist shot that was saved by Sarlo but Yakovlev picked up the rebound and put the in the net for his eighth goal on the season.
Just like he did on Friday night, Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart pulled his goalie left with three minutes remaining in the game for the extra attacker. With the puck at the top of the far side point, Esteves slid across and blocked a shot from an Ice Dogs point man. The puck went back into the neutral zone where Ryan Patrick out muscled a Fairbanks’ defender for the puck and put it into the empty net for a 4 – 1 Rebels lead with a minute and seventeen seconds remaining.
The game wasn’t over.
The Ice Dogs would make it interesting sixteen seconds later. Immediately following the face off, the puck went deep inside the Rebels zone where it was picked up by Solomon. Solomon, who leads the NAHL with the best plus/minus ratio, went to clear the puck. It was intercepted by Nolan Schaeffer at the top of the circle. Schaeffer walked in on Leavy and but a backhanded shot past the Rebels goalie to make it a 4 – 2 game.
With Fairbanks applying pressure, Adam Peck would put the game out of reach with a minute remaining by scoring an empty net goal to give the Rebels a 5 – 2 lead.
In addition to Yakovlev, Bellant had a two point game. Leavy, who made several key saves throughout, turned aside 24 of 26 shots while Sarlo saved 16 of 19 shots. Click here for the box score.
The Rebels now will travel to New Jersey on Wednesday for a 7:45pm game against the Titans.