1/26/2014 6:01:00 AM Sundogs 4, Denver 3, OT 3 goals in last 7 minutes wins it for Sundogs in OT Big home series with Rapid City this week
Hector Acevedo/Courtesy Matt McCready (8) and goalie Andrew Engelage box in the Cutthroats’ Jean-Philipp Chabot Saturday night in Vail, Colo.
The Daily Courier
Rallying all the way back from a two-goal deficit with only six minutes left to play, the Arizona Sundogs capped one of their most impressive wins of the season Saturday night.
The Sundogs trailed the Denver Cutthroats 3-1 with just over six minutes on the clock only to turn it on late. Paul McIlveen scored a power play goal, Matt McCready answered exactly three minutes later to tie the game, and Jordan Clendenning clinched the winner in overtime to give Arizona a 4-3 win, thanks to three unanswered goals in the final 7:27 of game time.
The 'Dogs swept the brief two-game series at the Dobson Ice Arena in Vail, Colo., to improve to 7-0-2 in their last nine games.
One night after eight different Sundogs players registered a point in a 4-1 win, 10 different Sundogs players picked up a point in Saturday's OT outing, Arizona's eight overtime/shootout game of the season (5-0-3).
Garrett Clarke opened the scoring with a goal in the final few minutes of the first period to give Arizona a 1-0 lead at the first break, but Denver charged back. The Cutthroats cashed in a pair of power play goals in a 55-second span of the second period, then added a third unanswered goal when CHL-leading scorer (63 points) Garett Bembridge connected for his league-leading 32nd goal of the season six minutes into the third period to widen Denver's lead to 3-1.
That's where the score stayed until McIlveen ignited the rally at the 13:51 mark with a power play goal to give the team a PP goal in 11 of its past 12 games. Arizona finished the night 1-of-6 with the man advantage while the Cutthroats, who lead the CHL in power play percentage, went 2-of-5.
Andrew Engelage went all 61+ minutes in goal for the Sundogs, stopping 36 of 39 shots to improve to 15-8-2 on the season. He is 7-0-1 in his last eight starts since Jan. 3, with at least 34 saves in his last three.
About the only problem the Sundogs have faced is moving up in the CHL standings, despite a nine-game point streak. The team hovered at or near the bottom for so much of the first half of the season that gaining ground has been difficult. The Sundogs on Saturday night did leap past Wichita, which lost to Rapid City, to take the eighth-place slot in the 10-team CHL.
But Arizona has set itself up nicely to make a serious run.
After the Denver series, the Sundogs (17-18-3, 37 points) return home for a six-game home stand at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, where the club is 6-9-2 this season but hasn't won back-to-back games since late November.
The team has a tough test ahead this week.
The first-place Rapid City Rush have been the CHL's front-runner much of the season, and their staunch defense (96 goals allowed) ranks first overall. The Rush are also a league-best 13-3-0 on the road.
The Sundogs and Rush have matched up in two series' this season. Rapid City swept a three-game set in Prescott Valley back in late October/early November, and then took two from Arizona on its own ice the following week to improve to a dominating 5-0 against the 'Dogs this season.
The critical series opens with an early 10 a.m. puck drop this Wednesday on Kids' Day Game at Tim's, where groups of area students will pack the house in a game that's already a sellout.
The weekend games - Friday and Saturday - both begin at 7:05 p.m.