Bobcats Pull Away to Double-Up Blizzard 6-3
BISMARCK, ND – Bouncing back from an early deficit, the Bismarck Bobcats scored six of the game’s last eight goals to storm past the Brookings Blizzard 6-3 Saturday at the VFW Sports Center, sweeping the two-game weekend from Brookings.
Whereas the Cats held Brookings off the scoreboard through 59:58 of hockey the night before, the Blizzard struck just 25 seconds into the game Saturday when Kane Durment deked his way through the Bobcat defense and deposited a low backhander in past goalie Hunter Shepard for a fast 1-0 edge for the visitors.
That lead proved to be short-lived, however, as the Bobcat power play cashed in their first opportunity of the night just 3:27 later on a mid-range bar-down blast from Jared Pike off a centering feed from Patrik Demel to tie the game at one.
Only 38 seconds after Pike’s equalizer, the Cats grabbed a 2-1 advantage on Harrison Aide’s 11th goal of the season when the Bottineau, N.D., native slammed home an Alex Strand rebound on the rush.
Brookings pulled back into a 2-2 tie moments after a Blizzard power play ended on a bad-angle shot from TJ Samec that banked into the net off Shepard with 13:05 to go in the first.
The game would stay tied for just over 10 minutes of play until Willie Brown redirected a point shot from Cole Souto that beat Blizzard netminder Josh Kuemichel five-hole with 3:04 to go in the frame to give the Bobcats a 3-2 lead—capping the scoring in the wild first period.
Both goalies settled down in the second, with Shepard and Kuemichel combining for 29 saves in the stanza to maintain the 3-2 score heading into the third.
“When I came onto the ice for the second, I said to myself ‘wake up,’” admitted Shepard, who gave up two goals on four shots to open the game before making 22 consecutive stops. “I was mad about the goals I let in, so I knew I had to step up to protect the lead our guys built in the first.”
It took a lucky bounce, but Alex Strand re-started the offense for the Bobcats 49 seconds into the third, whirling a Garrett Nelson rebound off the right skate of Samec and in, stretching the advantage to 4-2.
Shepard came up huge to keep it a two-goal game with 10:54 remaining in regulation, ranging quickly to his left to deny a wide-open rebound opportunity for Martan Yelle with a dazzling glove save, bringing the crowd of 1,320 to its feet.
Recently added winger Frankie Melton pushed it out to a three-goal cushion at 5-2 with 3:53 to go in the game, whipping a centering feed from Brown through Kuemichel’s five-hole for his second goal since being called up from St. Louis of the NA3HL two weeks prior.
Blizzard forward Griff Jeszka kept the visitors’ comeback hopes alive a mere 27 seconds after Melton’s insurance marker, blazing a wrister in transition over Shepard’s glove and in for his team-best 12th goal.
Melton made sure Brookings would draw no closer, powering into the low slot around one defender before using a deft backhand-to-forehand maneuver to beat Kuemichel low to the stick side with 2:12 left for the game’s final count of 6-3.
In all, Shepard submitted 24 stops to move into a tie for the league lead in wins at 23 with Fairbanks’ Gavin Nieto. Kuemichel amassed 46 saves but could not avoid falling to 8-8-2.
Saturday’s win kept the Bobcats (24-13-1, 49 pts) two points ahead of the streaking Minot Minotauros (22-16-3, 47 pts) for first place in the Central Division.
After a much-needed six-day layoff, the Bobcats return to action with their final out-of-division weekend of the year when they host the defending Robertson Cup Champion Minnesota Wilderness for a two-game set starting Friday at 7:15pm.
Tickets are now on sale for Friday’s interdivision tilt: fans can buy and print tickets 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com, by clicking “Shop Now” on the team Facebook page or by calling 222-3300.
Friday’s showdown will be broadcast live 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—with pregame coverage starting at 6:45pm.
Season tickets are still on sale for the 2015-16 season at a pro-rated price; if you want to beat the rush of over 40,000 fans for this year, now is the time! Call 222-3300 to reserve your seats today.
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