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Ice Dogs take pair from Jr. Sabres

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The Dryden Ice Dogs solidified their grip on first place in the SIJHL with a pair of weekend victories against the host Fort Frances Jr. Sabres.

The Sabres, who have rallied from a slow start to become a force to be reckoned with in SIJHL play, extended their losing streak against Dryden this season to 10 games.

On Saturday night, the Ice Dogs jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a first-period goal by Tony Francoeur and two more by Marlon Gardiner (his 26th and 27th of the season) in the second.

The Sabres got on the board with 4:17 left in the second as defenceman Jordan Matthews tallied a power-play goal (assisted by Alessio Tomassetti and Quinn Amiel) to cut the deficit to 3-1.

In a wild third period, in which the two teams combined for 37 shots on goal, the Sabres drew to within one with 6:03 to go as defenceman Rod Bouchard netted an unassisted power-play marker.

The comeback was not to be, however, as Ice Dogs’ sniper Nicolas Doiron, with assists from Gardiner and Drew Heinen, slid in an empty-netter with 48 seconds left to ice a 4-2 win.

Sabres’ goalie Ryan Faragher withstood a steady barrage of shots all night, fielding 40 pucks and allowing just three goals.

In the series-opener Friday night, the Sabres and Ice Dogs played 33 minutes of hockey before the first goal was scored.

It was Kevin Burton, who put the Ice Dogs up 1-0 at 13:09 into the second period, assisted by Paul Peterson and Tristan Allain.

But the quiet start gave way to a frenetic third period as the teams scored four times in less than eight minutes.

Gardiner (Francoeur and Chris Kitt) established a 2-0 Dryden lead at 4:50, but Mike Ainsworth roared right back 1:03 later, with Amiel and Tomassetti on the set-up, as the Sabres trimmed the lead to 2-1.

Gardiner tallied his second of the period at the 11:34 mark (Doiron and Heinen drew the assists) to increase the Dryden advantage to 3-1, but the Sabres responded immediately as Bouchard struck for his second goal of the year.

Amiel and Mitch Cain drew the assists.

But try as they might, the home side could not get the equalizer as the Ice Dogs prevailed 3-2.

With the regular season winding down, the Ice Dogs have a firm grip on first place with 71 points, followed by the Fort William North Stars at 65 and the resurgent Thunder Bay Bearcats at 58.

The Sabres (46 points) and Schreiber (45) are locked in a neck-and-neck battle for fourth place, with the Thunder Bay Bulldogs sitting in sixth with 21 points.

Marathon recently folded from the league.

The Sabres take the ice again this Friday (Feb. 29) as they travel to Thunder Bay for a game with the Bearcats.

Then they’ll close out the regular season with a pivotal home series against the Schreiber Diesels on March 7-8.

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