No, Fairbanks goalie Josh Benson said shutouts never come easily. However, he noted the guys in front of him made his work load lighter than it could have been in Friday’s 2-0 victory over the Bismarck Bobcats.
“They’re never easy,” said Benson, who is in his second season with the Ice Dogs. “You’ve always got to be focused, every shot.”
But the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Benson was quick to give credit to his teammates, who outshot the Bobcats 8-4 in the first period and 25-21 for the game.
“We kind of dominated in their zone. There wasn’t much pressure on me. Things were pretty normal. I stayed calm,” Benson said. “We’re pretty good at controlling the zone for periods of time, but I still have to stay mentally prepared.”
Fairbanks gave Benson some room to work with in the middle of the first period when Jake Willets scored the game’s first goal at 8:41. Willets, charging in from the right wing, slipped a low shot past Bismarck goalie Ryan Ullan.
That’s the way it stayed until the Ice Dogs’ Daniel Haider hit an empty net with 22 seconds to play.
Things got really hairy for Benson only twice.
In the middle of the second period, Bismarck’s Ty Enns broke in alone on Benson, but missed with a low shot.
“He got a pass at the blue line and broke away,” Benson recalled. “I felt I had great position, and he had nothing to shoot at.”
Benson had his work cut out for him in the middle of the third period when his teammates, Tyler Deweese and Chilton Connor, took minor penalties seven seconds apart.
Bismarck managed only one shot on net while skating with a two-man advantage, and when the Bobcats’ Patrick O’Connor was whistled for hooking at 8:07, the pressure eased considerably.
Bobcats coach and general manager Layne Sedevie said his team let a golden opportunity slip away when it failed to cash in on the two-man advantage.
“Definitely the one that was hard to handle was when we didn’t score in the third period when we had five-on-three,” Sedevie said. “Our power play has to be better. It was bad all night.”
Sedevie said the offense was slow to respond the whole game.
“I just didn’t think we moved the puck all game. It didn’t seem we had much patience. We didn’t possess the puck the way we needed to,” he observed.
Fairbanks, a Midwest Division team, is now 4-1. The Bobcats slipped to 2-3. Tonight the two teams return to the VFW Sports Center ice at 7:15 for a rematch.