The first day of the NAHL's Robertson Cup finals held at Braemar Arena in Edina, Minnesota produced two entertaining games, both of which were one-goal games decided in the final half of the final period.
Fairbanks Ice Dogs 2 Aston Rebels 1, Fairbanks Leads Series 1-0
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs may have traveled just over 3000 miles to get to the Robertson Cup , but had a bit of a hometown advantage with six Minnesotans in their line-up, including Elk River High School alum Reggie Lutz, who scored both goals to lead the Ice Dogs to a 2-1 win over the Aston(PA) Rebels and a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three semifinal series.
Aston took a first period lead on a power play goal by Dom Garcia that they took deep into the second period, before Lutz and Tyler Tomberlin, another Twin Cities native, converted a pretty passing play on a two-on-one to knot the game heading into the third period.
In the third, it was Lutz, recently named to the NAHL's first team all-rookie team, again knocking home a loose puck with 8:14 remaining in regulation to put the Ice Dogs in the lead. Aston appeared to tie the game less than a minute later when they knocked home a loose puck of their own in front of the Fairbanks net, but the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference.
Aston had one last chance in the final minute of the game, pressuring the Fairbanks net, but goalie Gavin Nieto came up with a great save with 40 seconds remaining to prevent the last, best chance at tying the game.
The two teams meet again tomorrow afternoon at 4:30 with Aston needing a win to keep their season alive and force a decisive Game 3, while a Fairbanks win would advance them to Sunday's league championship game.
Wichita Falls Wildcats 3 Bismarck Bobcats 2
Ryan Burnett's first two goals of the NAHL playoffs couldn't have come at a better time. After tying the game in the second period, Burnett's second goal of the game with just 2:36 remaining in regulation lifted Wichita Falls to a 3-2 win over the Bismarck Bobcats to take a 1-0 lead in their best of three semifinal series.
Bismarck would score early in each of the first two periods of the game, but both times, Wichita Falls was able to answer back within five minutes to keep the score tight throughout the game.
The two teams seemed headed towards overtime until Garrett VanWhye found Burnett alone in the high slot with a pass from behind the net. Burnett one-timed a slap shot past Bismarck goalie Hunter Shepard for the deciding goal.
Game two between the two teams in scheduled for 7:30pm Friday evening.