First Time for Everything

Three Notch First Goals as Cats Blitz Tauros 6-1
 
BISMARCK, ND – Though Friday was the second-to-last game of the regular season, it was a night of firsts for the Bismarck Bobcats as three skaters tallied their first goals of the year and the Cats secured their first home win over the Minot Minotauros by a final of 6-1 at the VFW Sports Center.
 
After narrowly evading early scoring chances from Bobcat forwards Willie Brown and Alex Strand, Minot took an early 1-0 lead on a 5-on-3 power play as Johnny Walker blazed a rising wrist shot over the blocker of goalie Alex Bitsakis with 4:21 gone in the contest.
 
The Cats dialed up a power play answer of their own with 10:07 left in the first when Tanner Salsberry blasted home a one-timer from Evan Giesler to even the score at one.
 
In the second, Brown gave the home side a lead that they would not give back 2:39 into the frame on a top-shelf blast for his second goal in as many games.
 
Just 38 seconds later, Johnny Witzke knocked down his first career goal; the Bismarck High product laced a low shot through traffic that beat Minot netminder Tanner Holmes under his right leg pad to make it 3-1 Bobcats.
 
Minot pressed the Bobcats after Witzke’s marker in an attempt to climb back into the game but deadline acquisition Aaron Herdt had other ideas, submitting his own first NAHL goal on a turnaround snap shot from the high slot that beat Holmes five-hole to stretch the score to 4-1 with 14:29 left in the middle stanza.
 
A shorthanded opportunity nearly brought the visitors back to within striking distance as Bitsakis ranged 25 feet out of his net to play a long dump-in away from danger, only for the puck to deflect off forechecker John Snodgrass toward the cage. Salsberry, however, knocked the rolling puck out of midair to the boards as Bitsakis scrambled back into the net to defuse the Minot chance.
 
Brown capped the Cats’ second-period explosion with 2:03 to go in the second, cashing in another wrister into the upper-90 for his fifth goal since arriving in advance of the trade deadline.
 
With 4:14 left in the game, Minot appeared to get one back as the puck scooted in past Bitsakis off James Mathias, but the referees huddled and ruled it to have been kicked in to keep the score 5-1.
 
Affiliate player Tyse Teague, who also chipped in two assists in his Bobcat debut, wrapped up the scoring with a controversial strike at the 30 second mark of the contest, crushing a one-timer past Holmes for his first junior goal as the Tauros argued the net was off. Teague, a 2013-14 teammate of Cole Souto and Jared Pike, is tendered to the Cats’ 2015 protected list.
 
On the night, Giesler contributed four helpers to move into a fifth-place tie with Tommy Dee on the Bobcats’ all-time assist list at 64.
 
Bitsakis turned in 31 stops on 32 shots to lock down his 16th win of the season. Holmes made 14 saves but took his second loss against the Cats.
 
The two sides will reconvene for the regular season finale Saturday at 7:15pm at the VFW Sports Center.
 
With a playoff matchup looming between the Cats and Tauros, fans in attendance at Saturday’s game will be given the first shot at buying tickets for the Bobcats’ first-ever postseason meeting with the Tauros at the VFW Sports Center. These tickets will not be sold online or by phone—or even during non-game times—until next week, giving non-season-ticket-holders their first chance to get in on Bobcat playoff hockey.
 
Tickets for the last game of the regular season are now on sale: fans can buy and print 24 hours a day online at BismarckBobcats.com or charge by phone at 222-3300.
 
Live coverage of the regular season finale will start 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.
 
Stay tuned to BismarckBobcats.com for full playoff ticket details!