If you tried to script a perfect rivalry game, Friday’s North American Hockey League tilt between the Anchorage Wolverines and Fairbanks Ice Dogs had virtually every essential element.
The game featured a hat trick, a fight, a pair of comebacks, an overtime game-winner and even off-ice confrontations between representatives of the organizations.
The Wolverines won the game 6-5 in overtime when Anchorage defenseman Hayden Hennen ripped a top-shelf, game-winner past Fairbanks goalie Kayden Hargraves just over a minute into the extra period.
“At the start of it, we had to play man-on-man defense,” Hennen said. “After that, it’s just trying to create confusion and criss-crossing. Luckily (teammate Aiden) Westin brought two guys with him and got me open and let me get a shot off.”
The shot put an exclamation point on an improbable comeback by Anchorage, which had allowed a 4-1 lead to slip away.
Along with the drama on the ice, there was a simmering off-ice clash as team officials and arena security bickered and nearly came to blows over the proximity to the Fairbanks bench of a fog horn that roared after each Anchorage goal.
“Whenever we’re up there, it’s a battle,” Hennen said. “These guys are our rivals, 100%, so whenever you can win it’s a good feeling.”
The game was played with a relatively quiet first period until a pair of goals late in the period, one from each team. Anchorage got its goal from Jackson Reineke, who carried that momentum into the second period.
After a goal by teammate Westin, Reineke scored two more for a hat trick and a 4-1 Anchorage lead. But Fairbanks slowly started to chip away at the Wolverines’ lead, getting a power-play goal by Billy Renfrew at 11:20 of the period.
“I’ve had a little bit bigger role this season offensively,” Reineke said. “So I’m just trying to live up to what coach expects of me. I’m playing with highly skilled players and fitting in well with them.”
The game got more heated in the second period as Fairbanks skater Joey Potter and Anchorage’s Cooper Morris both received fighting majors after a short duke-out on the near side.
Fairbanks tacked on another goal later in the second to make it 4-3 entering the third. The Ice Dogs kept the heat on in the third, tying the game at 4-4 on a top-shelf wrist shot by Colin Goff.
“We were getting the bounces early and they started getting them,” Reineke said. “They really started to get the momentum.”
With just over five minutes left in the third period, Fairbanks took its first lead since holding a 1-0 advantage in the first period.
Anchorage pulled its goalie in the closing minutes and tied the game with just 20 seconds remaining. Fedya Nikolayenya took a cross-ice pass and knocked home the goal to make it 5-5.
The fog horn, which sat 10 feet from the Fairbanks bench, had blared on every Anchorage goal. When it went off after the tying goal, it triggered a confrontation between the Fairbanks bench and building security, which had apparently been dispatched to protect it after it had been previously unplugged. After the game, a confrontation between Fairbanks head coach Dave Allison and the Anchorage announcing crew was fairly quickly disbanded, according to video and social media accounts.
The same two teams face off Saturday at Ben Boeke Arena at 7 p.m.