Matt Vernon was the North American Hockey League’s top goalie in the regular season and its Most Valuable Player in the Robertson Cup playoffs.
Vernon was outstanding for two periods, then the Aberdeen Wings limited the Fairbanks Ice Dogs to three shots through a scoreless third period Tuesday night to hang on for a 2-1 victory in the Robertson Cup National Championship at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minnesota.
Vernon was kept much busier early in the game. He finished with 27 saves for the Wings, including 14 while keeping the Ice Dogs off the scoreboard in the first period.
Joe Strada’s power-play goal with 14 seconds left in the second period, on assists from Dalton Wiegel and Riley Murphy, put Aberdeen ahead to stay. Strada tipped in a Wiegel pass.
Aberdeen scored first. John Sladic’s sixth goal of the postseason, 15:52 into the first period, opened the scoring. Pierson Brandon and Stepan Pokorny had the assists.
Fairbanks tied the game with less than five minutes remaining in the second period when Parker Brown scored on a rebound of a Tanner Edwards deflection of a Trenton Woods shot. Matias Sholl made 20 saves for Fairbanks in the loss.
CUP STARS: Vernon stopped 57 of 58 shots in the last two games to earn the MVP award and the goalie spot on the Robertson Cup All-Tournament Team.
The 21-year-old from San Jose, California, was Goaltender of the Year in the NAHL with 40 wins and seven shutouts. He is the son of former National Hockey League goalie Mike Vernon, who won his own playoff MVP award, the Conn Smythe Trophy for leading the Detroit Red Wings to the 1997 Stanley Cup.
During the regular season, Matt Vernon was second in the NAHL with a 1.94 goals against average and third with a .934 save percentage. Under playoff pressure, he nearly matched those numbers at 1.96 and .926.
Aberdeen had three of the six players on the All-Tournament Team. Vernon was joined by forwards Sladic and Jonathan Bendorf.
Jonny Sorenson, who shared the playoff scoring lead of 15 points, and defenseman Noah Wilson represented Fairbanks.
Johnstown Tomahawks defenseman Chris Trouba completed the team.
ROBERTSON SEMIFINALS: Aberdeen and Fairbanks both dropped the first of the best-of-three semifinals Friday in Blaine before coming back with consecutive wins Saturday and Sunday. Vernon made 30 saves to lead Aberdeen past the Amarillo Bulls 3-0 in the third game.
Fairbanks scored four times in the first period on the way to a 6-3 win over the top-seeded Johnstown Tomahawks in the deciding game.
Johnstown closed within 4-3 before Sorensen put Fairbanks back in control midway through the third period. Jake Willets, Logan Jenuwine and Brett Abdelnour each had a goal and an assist when Amarillo took the first game from Aberdeen 4-2. Nic Sicoly’s second goal of the game, in overtime, completed Aberdeen’s comeback from a two-goal deficit in Saturday’s 3-2 win.
Carson Briere scored twice, including one of the team’s two power-play goals, when Johnstown opened with a 7-2 win. Sorensen and Brenden MacLaren each scored twice when Fairbanks bounced back with a 4-2 victory.
CLARK CUP: The Sioux Falls Stampede jumped to out to a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five United States Hockey League Clark Cup Finals series with the Chicago Steel with 3-2 victories Friday and Sunday.
The second game was not decided until Andre Lee scored at 16:05 of the second overtime off an assist from Matt Kessel.
Lee had an assist earlier in the game. Chicago led twice on goals by Gunnarwolfe Fontaine late in the first period and Robert Mastrosimone midway through the third.
An unassisted goal by Sam Stevens with 2:50 left in regulation forced overtime. Max Crozier had scored the first Sioux Falls goal with 4:19 left in the second period.
Jaxson Stauber made 30 saves in the win. Stauber made 20 saves in the series opener, which the Stampede won on Jared Westcott’s goal with 5:01 left. Sioux Falls had taken a 2-0 lead on goals by Carl Berglund and Lee in the first 6:37 of the second period.
Josiah Slavin scored midway through the second and John Spetz connected early in the third to lift Chicago into a tie.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.