Bobcats Bounce Back, Top Brookings 3-2

BISMARCK, ND–At one time this season, Ryan Callahan (Grafton, ND) had to leave his position as a forward to shore up a defensive corp that had lost both Chris Diver (Wilmington, DE) and Levi Blom (Butte, MT) to injury.

Blom and Diver were happy to return the favor Friday night.

As a second-period four-on-four ended, Blom grabbed a loose puck and connected with Diver, who raced into the offensive zone and backhanded to Callahan for the finish of the eventual gamewinner, sealing a 3-2 win for the Bobcats at the VFW Sports Center.

Callahan had just returned to the front line Friday evening to to shore up an offense that had lost newly-acquired Alex Toscano (Duluth, MN), after an altercation with the Blizzard Friday night sent him off with a game misconduct.

“You love to have a player with that kind of versatility,” said Bobcat head coach Layne Sedevie of Callahan.  “He literally can go up one shift and back the next.  He’s a great skater, and not many defenders can keep him from turning the corner.”

The goal powered the Bobcats (23-11-4) back from a disappointing 2-0 loss at home Thursday night, their first shutout loss at home in more than a year.  It also kept them just a point back of Austin in the race for the NAHL Central Division.

Brookings (11-21-7), however, continued to challenge leaders in the division behind goaltender Connor Girard, who stopped 36 shots and gave his team a chance to win despite managing just 13 shots on goal.

Power play success returned to the Bobcats early, something they were hungry to find after being turned away on eight chances with the extra man Thursday.  

Blizzard Andrew Herlofsky was hit for tripping at 5:11 of the first, and a crisp, methodical power-play possession ended with Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) and Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia) opening a passing lane for Jacob
McDowell camped in the heart of the slot.  McDowell ripped in the shot at 5:44 for a 1-0 Bobcat edge.

Just as the power play was on the way up, the Bobcat penalty kill took a hit.  Dzakhov earned an interference call at 11:20, and the Blizzards’ Evan Hesse slapped a shot from the left point past a screen and Bobcat goalie Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) to even the game at 1-1 at 11:59.

Tyler Dunagan (Maple Grove, MN) pushed the Bobcats back to the lead in the second.  He slashed between two hi-and-low defenders in the right circle of the Brookings zone, then snapped a shot past Girard at 1:16 of the period for a 2-1 Bobcat lead.  Callahan’s goal followed at 14:11, building the lead to 3-1.

But Brookings would not go away.  Beau Michaud was credited with a goal on a shot from a tough angle on the right side of the Bobcat net.  Nelson attempted to poke his stick at the puck and inadvertently scooped it in for the Brookings score at 8:11 of the third, cutting the lead to 3-2.

The Bobcat defense proved solid late to hold on for the win, limiting the Blizzard to just seven shots combined in the second and third.  A late high-sticking call on Lane King kept Brookings from emptying their net till just 45 seconds to go, and Bismarck held on for the win.

A six-game road trip kicks off for the Bobcats Sunday night when they travel to Minot to face the Minotauros.  Faceoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.  The game will be heard on Supertalk 1270, with pregame coverage starting at 5:40 p.m.