ABERDEEN, SD–A Bobcat hockey team searching for ways to win a game found a pair of them Saturday night in Aberdeen.
Rookie Cullen Willox (Eagen, MN) split a pair of defenders and beat Aberdeen goalie Chad Catt (Williamstown, MN) at 8:31 of the third to deliver the first Bobcat lead of the weekend. Bismarck then followed with Huba Sekesi (Munich, Germany) tallying the first short-handed goal of the season to cap a 4-2 win over the Wings.
Bismarck battled back against two deficits to score three unanswered goals after a weekend of 93 shots against Catt, including 47 Saturday night. A Bobcat defense riddled with injury allowed only 18 Aberdeen shots in the final two periods.
For head coach Layne Sedevie, it was a character win.
"For the first time this year, we showed the character that wins championships. We battled, and we battled back, and we were injured. Great win," said Sedevie.
The win pulled the Bobcats (12-7-1) back within two points of the second-place Wings (13-7-1) in the NAHL Central Division, and they also closed some of the gap with division-leader Austin, who fell 3-1 at Brookings. Austin comes to Bismarck next weekend, setting up a pivotal mid-season showdown.
"What’s important now is backing it up," added Sedevie. "Last time I felt we took a step forward, we took two steps backward the next," he explained, referring to a loss at Minot last Saturday where Bobcat turnovers led to four straight scores for the Minotauros and a 6-4 loss.
Killing penalties was an issue for the Bobcats Saturday, as both Wings’ goals came with the man advantage. Drew Doyan (Carmel, IN) touched a Jonathan Grebosky (Oakdale, PA) blast past Bismarck netminder Aaron Nelson at 17:19 of the first for a 1-0 Wings lead.
Sekesi erased the lead just over a minute later, also on the power play, finishing a Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) rush at 18:38 to tie the game. Aberdeen again claimed the lead in the second, as Jake Horton (Plymouth, MN) led the power play attack with a slap from the middle of the blue line. His rebound was back-handed home by Patrick Steinhauser (Plymouth, MN) at 6:01 of the second for a 2-1 Wings lead.
Filip Starzynski (Warsaw, Poland) scored the first even-strength goal of the night, swiping in a rebound from a Tyler Dunagan (Maple Grove, MN) rush to the left side of the crease, marking his 12th goal of the season to tie at 2-2 with 2:30 left of the second.
The eventual game-winer by Willox was a piece of skating art. Taking the feed from Repensky, he ranged the left side of the ice, then split Wings defenders to play the puck back to his forehand on top of the circles, and wristed a shot by a glove hand of Catt that stopped the vast majority of 89 Bobcat shots on the weekend. The score gave the Bobcats their first lead since a 4-3 advantage in Minot eight days before.
Starzynski was sent to the box for a cross-check in the neutral zone with 5:34 left of the third. The Wings’ power play simply failed to materialize, as the draw was immediately played into the Aberdeen zone. After a brief hold along the Bobcat blue line, the Wings lost the puck to Evan Giesler (Naperville, IL), who rushed short-handed into a 2-1, feeding Sekesi for the short-handed score to effectively put the game out of reach.
Aberdeen did empty the net with 1:35 to go, but a late penalty forced them out of their advantage with the extra attacker, and Bismarck resisted any further efforts at their goal.
The Bobcats return home for three games at the VFW Sports Center this week, starting with a date with the Minot Minotauros on Wednesday night at 7:15 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the Bobcat ticket office, by calling 222-3300, or by logging onto the Bobcats website at www.bismarckbobcats.com.