(Editor’s note: Report by Merrick Parnell, Northern Hockey News)
BOZEMAN — The Bozeman Icedogs split their weekend series against the Gillette (Wyo.) Wild at the Hayes Pavilion arena in Bozeman. The split is the second one in a week for the Icedogs, as Bozeman split with the Wild last weekend in Gillette, and three out of the four recent games between the two clubs went to overtime.
Friday’s series opener would see a commanding 6-2 Bozeman win over the Wild. Hazen McKay ignited the Icedogs’ offense, burning in four goals and racking up two assists. The effort earned him first star honors. Connor Fuchs gashed the Wild with four assists and a goal, Dominic Canic added another four assists, and Brock Fin would notch his second goal of the year.
“Our game plan was just to keep the energy up and let the chips fall into place,” said Fuchs. “Our team had a full 60-minute effort, which showed on the ice and the scoreboard.”
While the Bozeman offense blitzed Gillette with six unanswered goals, the Icedog defense would hold the Wild to just two goals. Gillette’s first goal would come at the 13:15 mark of the first period, and the Wild then struck again in the third. Mikael Levokari would continue his goaltending performance with 36 saves on 38 shots on his way to his fourth win of the year.
Motivated by their Game 1 loss on Friday, the Wild would jump out and score their first goal of Saturday’s game in the first period on a Gage Thompson goal at 11:56 en route to a 3-2 overtime win. McKay would even the affair with a Bozeman goal early in the second, setting the pace for a back-and-forth battle that featured hard shots, and even harder hits, as both teams flew around the rink on a mission. Austin Newson would score the go-ahead goal for Gillette after taking a Nolan Conrad pass and wristing a shot from atop the faceoff circle.
Eager to knot things up, Bozeman seized a scoring chance in the third as McKay would take a pass from Canic and bury it in the back of Wild’s net. The game would go into overtime, but the Icedogs would be down to a 4-on-3 penalty kill after taking a late penalty in the third. Gillette would score the game-winning goal in overtime at just under a minute into the extra frame.
“On Friday’s game we played a full 60 minutes. The energy on the bench was great and the boys kept building off it,” said Bozeman head coach Elliot Bates. “On Saturday we didn’t have the energy like we did. We need to be able to bring it every night.”
The series split puts the Icedogs at 8-5 on the year and in third place in the Frontier Division. Gillette remains in fourth place with a 5-7 record. Bozeman will take on the Frontier Division’s top two teams next weekend with games in Helena and Great Falls.