Anchorage goalie Shane Soderwall posted his second consecutive shutout as the Wolverines beat Fairbanks 2-0 on Saturday at Ben Boeke Ice Arena.
Soderwall stopped 31 shots, Cameron Morris got the Wolverines on the board early and Talon Sigurdson put the polishing touches on an impressive win for the first-year North American Hockey League franchise playing against the division-leading Ice Dogs.
The recent success of the 19-year-old netminder from Illinois is especially gratifying to Wolverines coach Mike Aikens.
“Early in the season, I think Shane had a little bit of bad luck,” Aikens said Saturday night. “I knew what he could do. I think the whole team was happy to see Shane get rewarded for his hard work.”
Sigurdson echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“He stood on his head,” said Sigurdson, who is tied for the NAHL lead in goals after notching his 34th of the season. “He puts in so much work.”
In the first period, Anchorage opened the scoring on a rebound set up by Sigurdson.
During a two-on-one breakaway, Sigurdson put a shot on net that was more of a bounce pass to Morris than an attempt to score. And it worked. Fairbanks goalie Kayden Hargraves, who stopped 31 shots, made a kick save with his right pad, but the rebound went directly to the left-handed Morris, who banged it home.
“That’s what I was trying to do,” Sigurdson said. “It’s actually more common than people think.”
In the second period, Fairbanks stepped up the pressure on Soderwall. The Ice Dogs only managed six shots in the opening frame, but they forced him to make 12 saves in the second period, including one sequence that brought the Wolverines bench to its feet.
While screened, Soderwall made a kick save on a shot from the point and then snuffed the scoring chance by snatching a rebound shot out of the air with his glove.
“Sometimes your goalies win you the game,” Sigurdson said. “That’s what happened tonight.”
Anchorage put the game away when Sigurdson scored on a goal assisted by forward Aiden Westin and defenseman Andy Ramsey with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.
“Rammer just put the puck on net, there was a pretty good rebound, Aiden ... got the rebound, and then made a no-look pass to Talon,” said Soderwall, who watched from his net and described it as “a broken play.”
A night after allowing Fairbanks to score on all three of its power plays in a 4-3 shootout loss, the Wolverines killed all four of the Ice Dogs’ man-advantage situations.
Aikens was pleased with his team’s defense, singling out defenseman Cooper Morris, who is Cameron’s twin brother.
“He takes a lot of grief in the locker room from the guys because he doesn’t have a goal this season,” Aikens said. “He would put his face in front of the puck if it would help us win a game.”
The victory kept the Wolverines, who are third in the Midwest Division with 54 points, even with Fairbanks in the season series at four wins apiece. Four more games between the teams are on the schedule, and as the postseason approaches, more than seeding is at stake.
“Everyone wants to be the best team in Alaska,” Morris said of the in-state competition that also includes the Kenai River Brown Bears (29 points).
The Wolverines play host to the Minnesota Wilderness for a three-game series March 10-12. Fairbanks (65 points) takes on the Brown Bears in Soldotna for a two-game set March 11-12.
Then Anchorage goes to Fairbanks the following weekend for a series at the Big Dipper Ice Arena, which will undoubtedly be well-attended.
“They like to pack their barn. I’m thinking it will be a good atmosphere,” Soderwall said.