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Border Broom

Balanced Attack Delivers Bobcats Home-and-Home Sweep
 
BROOKINGS, SD – The Bismarck Bobcats got points from all four forward lines and another strong night from netminder Alex Bitsakis en route to a 4-1 win over the Brookings Blizzard Saturday at the Larson Ice Center, securing a weekend sweep for the Cats.
 
Top scorer Cullen Willox quieted the raucous home crowd 6:07 into the game, stuffing a Jared Spooner rebound in under Brookings goalie Eric Hancock for his team-best eighth goal of the season and a fast 1-0 lead for the Bobcats.
 
Bitsakis and Hancock took control following Willox’s go-ahead tally, combining for 19 straight saves over the next 29-plus minutes of hockey.
 
Latvian forward Oskars Batna gave the Cats a little breathing room at 2-0 with 4:55 to go in the second, getting behind the Brookings defense on an outlet from Logan Rivard and converting the ensuing breakaway on a five-hole shot past Hancock for his fourth goal in three games.
 
Just 4:12 into the third, Bobcat newcomer Jake Tomkowiak extended the score to 3-0 in just his fifth game in black and gold, collecting a centering feed from J.M. Piotrowski and scorching a snap shot over Hancock’s glove.
 
Brookings head coach Dan Daikawa gambled big to get back into the game: pulling Hancock for an extra attacker when Alex Strand was called for a tripping minor with more than eight minutes left in regulation.
 
High-flying center Beau Michaud made that gamble pay off, dekeing through the Bobcat defense and beating Bitsakis glove side on a sterling individual effort to drag the Blizzard back into the game at 3-1 with 8:09 to go in regulation.
 
The Bobcat defense stiffened from there, killing off a late hooking call on Willox—once again with a pulled goalie and an extra attacker for Brookings—and allowing just two shots to make it through to Bitsakis following Michaud’s marker.
 
A bit of luck intervened on the Bobcats’ behalf in the final minute, as well, when an errant pass to the point eluded the Blizzard defense and skidded the length of the ice into the empty net with 18 seconds left for the final 4-1 count. The goal was credited to the last Bobcat to touch the puck before the it went in: Evan Giesler—his third empty-netter of the season.
 
In securing his eighth win of the season, Bitsakis compiled 20 saves, giving him 43 out of 44 stops on the two-game weekend. Hancock suffered the loss despite turning away 23 Bobcat attempts.
 
Defenseman Tanner Salsberry, who played 46 games for the Bobcats in 2013-14, returned to the Cats’ lineup Saturday after being reacquired in a trade with the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder. Salsberry did not end up with a point but did manage to register a plus-2 rating in his return.
 
The two sides will reconvene Tuesday at the VFW Sports Center for a special Military Appreciation Night on Veterans Day. For the contest, the Cats will wear special camoflauge jerseys from the North Dakota National Guard, which will be auctioned off following the game. Hardees will also present fans in attendance with military-themed prizes throughout the night.
 
Tickets for Military Appreciation Night are now on sale: fans can buy and print their tickets 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com or charge by phone at 222-3300.
 
Live coverage of the special Tuesday tilt will begin at 6:45pm locally on SuperTalk 1270, KLXX-AM, the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, and worldwide online at NAHL.FASTHockey.com, the official web television partner of the North American Hockey League.
 
Though the 2014-15 season is now under way, there is still time to order season tickets for the year; fans who want to lock in their seats for the entire campaign should call the Bobcat office at 222-3300 today!