Foot in the Door

Bobcats Sew up Playoff Bid Despite Saturday Defeat
 
BISMARCK, ND – Though the Bismarck Bobcats fell 5-3 in a special teams duel with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs Saturday at the VFW Sports Center, the Cats still clinched a Robertson Cup Playoff berth.
 
With Brookings falling 6-2 at Aberdeen, the Bobcats are now assured no worse than a tie with the Blizzard at season’s end—and the Cats have already sealed up the NAHL’s first playoff tiebreaker: total wins, as well as head-to-head (7-5-0).
 
“Getting in [the postseason] is the most important thing,” stated Bobcats assistant coach Garrett Roth, “because once you get into April, everyone is back at equal footing. Now we just need two more points to wrap up third place and know where we stand in the last two weeks [of the regular season].”
 
Trailing 3-0 halfway through the second period to the Ice Dogs, the Bobcats started to battle back on the power play when Evan Giesler collected a mid-slot pass from Jared Spooner and ripped home a wrist shot with 5:34 remaining in the frame to snap Ice Dog goalie Kevin Aldridge’s four-plus period shutout streak at 94:26 and bring the score to 3-1.
 
Just 136 seconds later, Cullen Willox made it a 3-2 score on yet another power play, blazing a one-timer on a cross-ice feed from Oskars Batna past Aldridge.
 
Fairbanks pulled back out to a two-goal lead at 4-2 with five minutes left in regulation off a broken play when a Jacob Hetz shot was blocked straight to a wide-open Hans Gorowsky, who tapped the puck past Bobcat netminder Hunter Shepard, who was ranging to his right to play Hetz’s effort.
 
Veteran blueliner Tanner Salsberry got the Cats back within striking distance on the power play with a heavy slapshot at the 1:15 mark of the third, but Ryner Gorowsky slammed the door shut on the home side’s comeback hopes with an empty-netter 54 seconds later for the final margin of 5-3.
 
A first-period power play strike by Hetz gave Fairbanks a 1-0 lead after one, which grew to 3-0 on strikes in a 4:20 span by Jesper Ohrvall and Ethan Somoza.
 
In all, the teams combined for six power play goals and an empty-netter; Ohrvall’s five-on-five marker—the only one for either team all weekend—proved the difference.
 
Shepard slipped back to .500 at 13-13-1 on 22 saves; Aldridge picked up his second win of the weekend on 32 stops.
 
The Bobcats won’t have much time to lick their wounds; the black and gold hit the road for a week of road games, starting Tuesday at Maysa Arena with a chance to lock in third place in a rivalry clash against the rival Minot Minotauros at 7:05pm.
 
Live coverage of the Cats’ final regular-season visit to the Magic City will start at 6:50pm 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 early this week for 2015 Robertson Cup Playoff ticket information!