Bobcats Battle Back, Fall in Shootout
BISMARCK, ND — The Bismarck Bobcats overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period but could not break through in the shootout, falling 6-5 to the league-leading Austin Bruins Friday at the VFW Sports Center.
In a game dominated by offense, the fireworks started 42 seconds into the game as Cory Chapman chipped a puck into space for Matt Anders, who outmaneuvered Bruins netminder Nick Lehr and slid home his fifth goal of the year to post the Bobcats to a quick 1-0 lead.
Austin's league-leading power play evened the score 2:46 later with their first of three goals on the night as Jay Dickman bombed a slap shot past Bobcat goalie Aaron Nelson.
The Bruins pulled ahead early in the second on a controversial goal by A.J. Reid: on the rush, Reid rolled a puck in on Nelson and then collided with Nelson and knocked the net off, all while dragging the puck into the net with him. When the officials allowed the goal, it boosted Austin to a 3-2 edge just 94 seconds into the middle frame.
Levi Blom dialed up a response for the Bobcats with 14:00 to go in the second, utilizing a jumping screen set by Stanislav Dzakhov to rip home a rising wrister, tying the game at two.
While Ryan Callahan served a cross-checking penalty for the Cats, Austin pulled back in front 3-2 with their second power play strike of the night when C.J. Smith popped a low shot through Nelson's legs with 7:56 left in the second stanza.
Dzakhov responded on the power play for the home side at the 2:11 mark, batting an Adam Knochenmus rebound out of mid-air on a 5-on-3 advantage to force another tie at three. In a wild second period, the wildest goal came as time expired as Smith was credited with his second goal when he fired the puck at the horn, beating Nelson five-hole. Though video evidence showed the puck had not crossed the line at the horn, the goal was allowed to stand.
"Sometimes goals like that go against you and you can't get too wrapped up in it," pointed out Bobcats assistant coach Garrett Roth. "Our guys played a heck of a good game and did their best to shake off some bad bounces."
Protesting the call vehemently heading into intermission, Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie was charged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which set the Bobcats–now trailing 4-3–up for a penalty kill to open the third. The ensuing penalty kill led to the Bruins' second goal in 59 seconds of game time as league-leading scorer Brandon Wahlin found a shooting lane and beat Nelson low to push the lead out to 5-3 for the visitors.
Wahlin's 18th goal of the year chased Nelson from the net, as the Century High grad was supplanted by rookie Bryan Nies. Nelson made just 16 saves on the night.
Nies stopped all five shots he saw in the third period while the offense went to work, starting when team captain Adam Knochenmus made a steal 15 feet from the Austin net and deked left before burying a shot five-hole past Lehr with 7:44 left in regulation. An Austin backchecker dumped Knochenmus head-first into Lehr during the shot and the Bruin keeper was slow to his feet after the play.
Joe Giordano forced the fourth tie of the game with 4:01 to go, stuffing home a Bob Kinne rebound past a sprawled-out Lehr.
The Bobcats had a chance to pull ahead in the final minute as Knochenmus found Chapman alone in the slot, but the rookie could not put a one-timer on net.
As the game headed to overtime, the Bobcats continued to put pressure on Lehr as Patrick Moore redirected a centering feed from Shane Omdahl on net, but the second-year netminder ranged to his right to deny the opportunity, sending the game to the decisive shootout.
In that shootout, Austin head coach Chris Tok turned heads when he subbed out Lehr for rookie phenom Jason Pawloski moments before the five-round affair began.
Tok's gambit paid off: Pawloski denied all three Bobcat shooters while the Bruins got goals from Dickman, Reid and Wahlin to claim a 6-5 win.
"There are no such things as moral victories, but we've got a lot to build on from [Friday]," stated Sedevie, whose team slipped to 2-2-1 against the Bruins this season. "Our guys were working hard and battling and the offense finally started to click out there."
Despite and admirable performance in relief, Nies took his first overtime loss of 2012-13 on eight saves. It is the Grand Forks' native's first defeat since November 9. Lehr finished the night with 28 saves but did not factor in the decision; despite not being credited with any official saves, Pawloski earned his 13th win of the season by keeping a clean sheet in the shootout.
The two sides will reconvene Saturday for the Bruins' last regular-season visit to the VFW Sports Center at 7:15 PM.
Tickets for Saturday's contest are on sale by calling the Bobcat Box Office at 222-3300; fans can buy and print tickets online right now at BismarckBobcats.com.
Saturday's rematch will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide on the official internet television partner of the NAHL, FASTHockey, at http://nahl.fasthockey.com. Pregame coverage gets under way at 6:45 PM.
Pro-rated season tickets for the 2012-13 season are now on sale—and going fast! Call the Bobcat Hockey office today at (701) 222-3300 to reserve your seats for another great season of Championship Entertainment.