Fairbanks Ice Dogs forward Kyle Lee returned from an upper-body injury in time to play in Game 5 of the first-round Robertson Cup series against the Kenai River Brown Bears.
All Lee did was score the overtime goal that advanced the Ice Dogs — the regular-season North American Hockey League champions — to the next round.
So when the Ice Dogs found themselves again in overtime in the fifth and deciding game of their Robertson Cup Midwest Division Final series, Lee had reason to be comfortable with the situation.
And again, all he did was produce another overtime game-winner, this time against the Wenatchee Wild.
“I wanted to be the hero of that game, too, just like everyone else,” Lee said. “I remembered the goal I had scored against Kenai [River].
“I was hoping I would get a chance to score another.”
Lee had to work for both goals, Ice Dogs coach Trevor Stewart said.
“Both of the goals were a result of him just going to the net,” Stewart said.
Lee left the playoff opener against Kenai River after suffering an injury on his third shift. In seven playoff games, he has two goals — the two overtime winners. In two seasons, all three of his playoff goals have been game-winners.
“He works hard,” Stewart said. “He battled through some injuries this year. He got hurt in our playoff run, then he came back for Game 5 against Kenai River.
“We weren’t even sure if he could play, and he said, ‘There’s no way that I’m not playing.’ Then he came through at the time when his team needed him most. It was kind of the same way in Wenatchee.”
Said Lee: “There was no doubt I was going to play.”
At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Lee, a 20-year-old from Wausau, Wis., said crashing the net is not always his most effective way of scoring, but it worked on the two overtime goals. He had 19 goals and 25 assists in 58 regular-season games.
After going 45-14-1 in the regular season, the playoffs have been a challenge for the Ice Dogs while playing without Chandler Madry for five games, scoring leader Taylor Munson for four games and Lee for three-plus because of injuries.
All are back as the team heads to the semifinals, still in title contention, largely because of the two clutch goals by Lee.
Against Kenai River, Lee got a pass from Lonnie Clary from behind the net. He missed his first attempt but kept battling in front until he batted home the rebound.
The winner against Wenatchee, which put the Ice Dogs in this weekend’s Robertson Cup semifinals on home ice, came on the power play.
“He was just kind of cruising by the front of the net,” Stewart said. “Doug Rose got a shot in, kind of a harmless shot it seemed like. Kyle got his stick on it and deflected it between the goaltender’s legs.”
The Ice Dogs have held opponents to 2.2 goals per game during the playoffs.
Defensemen Nick Hinz, Wyatt Ege and Duggie Lagrove have also contributed offensively. Hinz shares the team playoff scoring lead with Brett Gervais at a goal and seven assists each. Ege has a team-high four goals, including the winner in Game 2 of the Wenatchee series, after scoring just three in 59 games during the season. Lagrove is tied for third on the team with six playoff points.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.