Solid offense and relentless defense led to another win for the Aberdeen Wings, who downed the Fairbanks Ice Dogs 8-0 Saturday night to sweep the weekend.
Saturday’s win also notched the fourth consecutive shutout for goalie Jake Sibell, who continues to refuse to let the puck get behind him. He leads the league with an astonishing 1.01 goals-against average and an incredible .960 save percentage after stopping all 28 shots Fairbanks sent his way.
The scoring barrage started halfway into the first period when Payton Matsui scored the shorthanded goal at the 9:33 mark. Picking up the assist was Nico deVita and Spencer Schneider. At the 13:05 mark, defenseman Jakob Stender scored his second goal of the weekend off a backhanded shot, with the apple going to Clayton Cosentino. Matsui nabbed his second goal of the night and 14th of the season on the power play at the 17:39 mark, with Cosentino assisting once again.
The Ice Dogs put Sibell to the test in the first, firing off 13 shots, but the Wings were able to head into the first intermission leading 3-0 after just seven shots.
“We were pinned into our own end for the first ten minutes, until Payton Matsui showed his leadership and gave us the lift we needed,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said. “The play of our specialty teams turned the momentum of the game around.”
Aberdeen found plenty of scoring opportunities in the second period; Schneider capitalized first with a goal of his own at the 3:18 mark, assisted by Matsui and Liam Fraser. Natan Vertes found the open five-hole to score the game’s fifth goal at the 16:30 mark, with the assist going to Devon Carlstrom and Christian Abrams. Finally, with just under a minute to play in the second, Will Arquiett scored his first goal as a Wing, finding the upper right corner off a pass from Abrams and Kyle Gaffney.
The Wings outshot the Ice Dogs 15-5 in the second and skated into the final break leading 6-0. After a late penalty, they started the final period on the power play.
It took just eleven seconds for the Wings to score in the third, with Fraser nabbing a goal of his own. He was assisted by Matsui, who picked up his 18th assist of the season, and Cosentino, who picked up his 26th. The game’s final goal came less than two minutes later as Arquiett snuck one over the shoulder, assisted by Gaffney and Abrams.
Matsui ended the night with two goals and two assists, while Cosentino and Abrams each added three assists. Sibell stopped 28 of 28 shots, while Fairbanks goalie Ryan Keyes stopped 23 of 31.
Langer was pleased with how well his team fought to win puck races and own the possession and momentum of the game.
“We needed to improve in our puck possession game tonight, and the team responded in doing that,” he said. “We are a better team when we have the puck.”
Langer was equally impressed with his goalie, who leads the entire North American Hockey League in goals against, save percentage and shutouts. A perfect 18-0 on the season, Sibell has denied points in eight of those games.
“Jake made a number of big saves to keep his shutout streak alive at four games in a row,” Langer said, “He came up big many times tonight.”
The Wings improve to 21-1-0-0 while the Ice Dogs drop to 6-8-0-0. Aberdeen returns to the Odde Ice Center on Wednesday, Jan. 27 to host the Minot Minotauros. Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. As part of Midweek Madness, fans can also get $10 general admission tickets at the door, or $8 tickets at any of the four C-Express locations in Aberdeen with additional purchase.