ALBERT LEA, MN – The Bismarck Bobcats completed a three-game playoff sweep of the Albert Lea Thunder Friday, riding a 4-for-8 performance on the power play to a 6-1 drubbing of the Thunder in Game Three of the Central Division Semifinals at Albert Lea Arena.
“We’re pretty excited to be moving on,” noted Bobcat forward Jason Fabian. “Getting the sweep is really important because we get to sit back and watch while Alexandria and Owatonna battle it out to see who we’ll play [in the Central Division Finals].”
The Bobcats special teams got the scoring going with 3:26 left in the first period when Bismarck’s leading playoff scorer, Dominic Panetta, got free between Albert Lea defenders on the power play and ripped a rising shot over Thunder goalie Joe Rogers’ glove for a 1-0 lead.
Panetta’s linemate Ryan Jacobson followed up with 34 seconds left in the opening frame, wiring a Tim Serratore face-off win through traffic and over Rogers’ blocker to push the lead to 2-0.
The ‘Cats wasted no time in the second in extending the lead, again on the power play, as Panetta poked a Fabian rebound under Rogers just 15 seconds into the middle stanza.
“Albert Lea was in the box a lot tonight,” said Panetta, who finished with five points on Friday, “and we know that if you want to be a championship team, you have to make the other guys pay for going to the box. Both units moved the puck well and created a lot of chances, which is what you need to do in the playoffs.”
Fabian got one of his own 1:36 later, deflecting a Sam Rendle power play shot through Rogers’ legs to make it 4-0.
The goal gave the Bobcat man advantage unit a 3-for-3 start to the night.
Rendle tacked on additional insurance 97 seconds into the third, lining a low 40-footer off Rogers’ legs and in to pus the lead to 5-0.
Jacobson notched his second of the night on the power play with 6:48 left in the game, popping in a Serratore centering feed to extend the lead to six.
Thunder forward Anthony Iaquinto broke up Bobcat goaltender Ryan Faragher’s shutout bid with just 5:04 remaning, lining home a Zack Smoot rebound for the final margin of 6-1.
“The shutout would’ve been nice,” admitted Faragher, “but the win is definitely the biggest thing. My teammates let me see the puck really well tonight and that made things easier for me back there.”
The Fort Frances, Ont., native made 43 saves in picking up his first win of the playoffs.
For Albert Lea, Rogers turned aside 38 Bobcat attempts but ended the 2010 Robertson Cup Playoffs with an 0-3 record.
The 4-for-8 power play was not the only Bobcat unit with high marks Friday; the penalty kill finished the evening 3-for-3 and killed off all nine power plays the Thunder enjoyed over the course of the series.
The Bobcats now await the winner of the Alexandria/Owatonna Central Division Semifinal—Alexandria took a two-games-to-one lead in that series with a 5-2 win over the Express Friday.
Game One of the Central Division Finals will be Friday, April 16th, at the VFW Sports Center at 7:15 between the Bobcats and the Alexandria/Owatonna winner.
Friday’s series lid-lifter will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide at BismarckBobcats.com via B2 Networks. The pre-game show starts at 6:45 PM.
Playoff tickets for the 2010 Robertson Cup Playoffs are available now for the Bobcats’ second-round series! You can reserve your postseason seats by calling the Bobcat Hockey Office at 701-222-3300, online at http://tickets.bismarckbobcats.com or by e-mailing the office for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.