BISMARCK, ND – Jake Williams made 24 saves and the Bismarck Bobcats made an early lead stand up, pulling away from a 4-0 shutout Friday over the visiting Owatonna Express at the VFW Sports Center.
The shutout was Williams’ second since coming to the Bobcats from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs after New Years.
“The guys in front of me made my job so easy [Friday],” said Williams, who is now 5-0-0 in black and gold, “the defense and the backcheck kept everything outside and the shots that weren’t blocked were easy to see and get in front of.”
The Bobcats came out roaring as Nick Jensen put the home team on the board 9:25 into the first period, snapping a power play one-timer off a Ryan Jacobson feed past Owatonna netminder Michael Webb, putting the ‘Cats up 1-0.
65 seconds later, Jensen’s linemate Gavin Hartzog tallied his second goal of the year, popping a John Avino rebound home for a 2-0 Bobcat lead with 9:30 left in the first.
“That first period is exactly what we needed,” said Jensen, who finished with a goal and an assist with a +2 plus/minus rating. “We’re trying to get to the top of our game heading into the playoffs and we’re starting to learn that we can’t afford to take any period off.
“All four lines played hard and created good chances and that took [Owatonna] off their game early on.”
Neither side was able to break through during a scoreless second period that saw the Bobcats outshoot the Express 18-13. The ‘Cats outshot Owatonna 46-24 on the night.
Holding a 2-0 lead after two, the Bobcats seemed to struggle early in the third, prompting Bobcats head coach Byron Pool to call a timeout just over two minutes into the final frame.
“We played like we were content to be up 2-0 and got a little shaky on the back end,” said Bismarck defenseman Ben Danford. “So Coach Pool called us all over and told us that we needed to get back to taking it to [the Express] and it really rallied us.”
The Bobcats responded, as Dominic Panetta notched his 20th goal of the season, firing home a Jacobson rebound to extend the lead to 3-0 with 12:27 left in regulation.
Danford followed up just over four minutes later with his second power play goal in as many nights, putting a low liner through traffic and past Webb with 8:19 remaining for the final margin of 4-0.
Williams was rarely tested over the final 8 minutes, turning aside three Express shots to improve to 6-4-0 overall on the 2009-10 campaign.
Webb suffered only his second loss of the year, stopping 42 Bobcat shots in the losing effort.
The win gives the Bobcats (29-9-8, 66 pts) a 10-point cushion over the Express (26-16-4, 56 pts) for first place in the Central Division with 12 games remaining for both teams.
Friday was the fourth annual “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night for the Bobcats, with the home side wearing special edition pink jerseys that were auctioned off during and after the game to benefit the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life.
The Bobcats continue their four-game homestand next Friday at 7:15 PM when they welcome the archrival North Iowa Outlaws to the VFW Sports Center for the first of two games.
Friday’s game will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide at BismarckBobcats.com via B2 Networks. The pre-game show starts at 6:45 PM.
You won\’t want to miss any of the games this season, so order your Season Tickets, Family Packs and Group Nights today by calling the Bobcat Hockey Office at 701-222-3300 or by e-mailing the office for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.