Frank the Tank

BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats rebounded Saturday, both to a 4-2 loss Friday and to a goal scored against them in the first minute of the game, rallying for a 4-2 win at the VFW Sports Center against the visiting Austin Bruins.

It was an immediate uphill climb, though, for the Bobcats as Top Prospects-bound Bruin defenseman Christian Folin triggered an up-ice rush moments after the opening faceoff and, using the Bobcat defense as a screen, blistered a rising slap shot that beat Tommy Burke stick side for a 1-0 Austin lead just 26 seconds into the game.

A kneeing major and game ejection to Bruins forward Jeremy Finger provided the Bobcats the boost they needed to get into the game, though, as Dan Zawacki converted a give-and-go with Adam Knochenmus for a power play goal that leveled the game at 1-1 with 12:27 to go in the first.

At the 4:28 mark of the second, recently acquired Buster Hebda notched his first goal as a Bobcat, ripping a Bryce Anderson rebound past Bruins netminder Nick Lehr to give the Cats their first lead of the weekend at 2-1.

“Buster works hard, and that’s a big reason we went out and got him at the deadline,” explained Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “I think he was gripping the stick a bit tight in a new environment his first few games, but he played really well tonight.”

“I really needed that,” joked Hebda after the game. Hebda had briefly left the game after taking the knee-to-knee contact that earned Finger an early shower; he said there was only tightness in the knee following the contest. “Tonight felt a lot more in sync; maybe it was a little home cooking, getting on the same line as [childhood friend] Zawacki.”

Austin, though, would not let the Bobcats off the hook so easily as Austin Nelson tied the game back up at 2-2 when he perfectly batted a Matt Hanson rebound out of mid-air and in with 4:55 left in the middle frame.

Frank DeAugustine made a jaw-dropping solo effort to push the home side back in front with 1:21 left in the second, taking an entry pass on the rush from Tyler Richter and then, as he was dragged down while trying to split two Austin defenders, swatted the puck through Lehr’s legs, making it 3-2 for the Bobcats.

“I was getting frustrated and Coach talked to me and told me to keep working hard and it would start coming back,” recalled DeAugustine, who returned last Saturday from a concussion that held him out nearly two months. “Getting one [Friday] definitely helped and things were just flowing [Saturday].”

The Bobcats and Burke locked down the third period, only allowing six shots by the visiting Bruins, who were vexed by a superior shot-blocking effort by the Cats.

Anderson added some last-minute insurance, taking a transition pass from DeAugustine and lofting a one-timer over Lehr’s glove with 58 seconds left in regulation for the final 4-2 score.

Burke recovered from giving up a goal on the first shot of the game—the first time a Bobcat goalie has done that all year and the first time since Ryan Faragher did so in Game Five of the 2011 Central Division Finals—to make 25 saves and snag his league-best 25th win of the year.

“I couldn’t let that first one get me down,” noted Burke, who stopped 25 of the next 26 he saw. “I just had to keep the play in front of me and the offense picked me up and got some goals tonight. I scrambled a few times but the guys stepped up blocking shots and that helped a lot.”

Lehr piled up 38 saves but could not avoid dropping to 3-6-1 on the season.

With the win, the Bobcats finished their taxing eight-games-in-15-nights stretch a strong 6-2-0. They will now have six days off before traveling to the Runestone Center for a 7:30 PM showdown with the second place Alexandria Blizzard on Friday.

Friday’s road tilt will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide on the official internet television partner of the NAHL, FASTHockey, at http://nahl.fasthockey.com. Pregame coverage gets under way at 7:00 PM. Fans can watch the game—and all away contests—live at Reza’s Pitch at Third and Front in Bismarck, the official away game home of Bobcat Hockey.

Season tickets are still available for the second half of the 2011-12 season—and going fast! Call the Bobcat Hockey office at (701) 222-3300 or email gobobcathockey@aol.com for more information on reserving a pro-rated package for the rest of the season!