Central Leaders Loom as Bobcats Finish Four-State Swing
BROOKINGS, SD – The Bismarck Bobcats will face the two teams ahead of them in the Central Division standings as they wrap up their three-week road trip with games Friday against the second-place Brookings Blizzard and Saturday at the division-leading Austin Bruins.
“We’ve got four big points in front of us against the two teams we’re chasing,” noted Bobcats assistant coach Garrett Roth, “so we have a chance to make up some ground in a hurry.”
Coming into the weekend, the Cats (7-8-1, 15 pts) sit seven points behind the Blizzard (11-4-0, 22 pts) and a full 10 behind the streaking Bruins (12-2-1, 25 pts).
Friday’s contest at Larson Ice Center marks the Bobcats’ first regular season trip to Brookings since the Blizzard franchise relocated from Alexandria, Minn., following the 2011-12 season; the Cats claimed a 3-2 road win over the Blizzard in the preseason.
Brookings enters the weekend on a hot tear, having won five of their last six games with a sparkling in-division record of 8-3-0.
Defensively, the Blizzard are tops in the Central division, allowing a stingy 2.13 goals per game—good for third-best league-wide—while sporting an NAHL-best 91.9% penalty kill percentage.
“[The Blizzard] are really good on ‘D’ and have some strong goaltending,” credited Bobcat forward Sam Coborn, playing in his first year in juniors, “so we need to do a good job of burying our chances when we get them.”
As for Austin, the Bobcats have met up with their foes from the 2012 Central Division Finals three times so far this season, going 1-2-0 against the front-running Bruins.
Where Brookings’ divisional record is strong, the Bruins’ is nearly perfect at 10-0-1. Austin’s only divisional blemish came at the hands of the Bobcats three weeks ago when the Cats scored a 4-3 come-from-behind win on October 19.
The Bruins’ key feature is its offensive attack, leading the Central with a 3.67 goals per game average and an eye-popping 26.6% power play efficiency, which is second-best league-wide.
Irrespective of the team wearing lining up against them, the key to the Bobcats’ game plan on the weekend will be effort.
“What we really need is to duplicate the effort that we saw in Fresno and Wenatchee,” remarked Roth on the team’s 2-1-1 west coast swing that wrapped up last weekend. “Our guys played some of their best hockey the last two weeks and if they can work as hard against the Central Division as they did against the West, there are a lot of wins in store for this team.”
The Bobcats have also been aggressive with their roster on the road trip, trading future considerations to the Wenatchee Wild for 18 year-old defenseman Chris Diver. In 13 games with the Wild, Diver had a +3 rating to go with seven assists.
Friday’s road battle is scheduled for a 7:00 PM start, while the Cats and Bruins will square off at 7:05 PM on Saturday at Riverside Arena.
Both games 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 a half hour before puck drop.
Pro-rated season tickets for the 2012-13 season are now on sale—and going fast! Call the Bobcat Hockey office today at (701) 222-3300 to reserve your seats for another great season of Championship Entertainment.