MINOT, ND–Dan Kovar (Bismarck, ND) spent his 21st birthday with his Bobcat teammates at a road game in Minot in January.
He re-celebrated in the same spot Friday night.
With the Bobcats clinging to a 2-1 lead against a six-on-four Minot advantage in the final minute, Kovar forced picked up a turnover on his own blue line and calmly fired in an empty-net goal to seal a 3-1 Bobcat win at Maysa Arena Friday night.
The goal ensured a four-game Bobcat winning streak and a 4-2 road trip heading back to Bismarck for their first home game in three weeks Saturday.
Few saw the goal coming, with a flurry of advantages in the Minotauros’ favor at the end of regulation. Trailing 2-1 with 2:39 remaining, Minot was put on the power play till the buzzer when Huba Sekesi (Munich, Germany) took a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind.
After earning an offensive zone draw, Minot emptied their net for a sixth attacker against four Bobcat penalty killers.
It was not enough. Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) stopped an early volley of shots to record 29 saves. Filip Starzynski (Warsaw, Poland), back after seven weeks of injuries, chased the Minotauros into their own end to apply the pressure that created the turnover, and Kovar did the rest.
It was the only goal after the first period of the game. Starzynski wasted little time regaining his scoring touch, firing a shot into the corner of the Minot zone that Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia) recovered and buried with a quick dart through the circle for a 1-0 edge at 6:31 of the first.
Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) then blasted a one-timer created by a brilliant pass from Sekesi in the right corner to Chris Diver (Wilmington, DE), who set Repensky up at 16:03 of the period, pushing the Bobcat edge to 2-0.
Minot’s lone goal came with 1:29 left of the first, as Tyler Shipstad rushed the right wall, then was left alone in the circle by a pair of Bobcat defenders. Shipstad fired past Nelson, cutting the lead to 2-1 at 18:31.
Nelson recovered, stopping the Minotauros, who enjoyed a 21-13 shots advantage after the first. Kovar’s goal punctuated Bismarck’s 27th win, and pushed them to first place in the NAHL Central Division, a point ahead of Austin, who played late in Alaska.
The Bobcats host Minot Saturday night at the VFW Sports Center, with faceoff scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Tickets are still available at 222-3300 or online at www.bismarckbobcats.com.