Rally Busters

Bobcats Fend off Wilderness, Earn Sweep
 
CLOQUET, MN – The Bismarck Bobcats’ special teams provided a big lead halfway through the game and then visitors weathered a three-goal storm to lock down a 4-3 win Saturday over the Minnesota Wilderness, sweeping the weekend at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
 
Oskars Batna got the Bobcats started on the power play with 9:08 to go in the first, swatting home a back-door feed from Evan Giesler in transition for a quick 1-0 advantage.
 
Another power play goal stretched the score to 2-0 2:57 into the second when Logan Rivard sprung Cullen Willox on a 60-foot breakaway that the co-captain cashed in over the glove of Wilderness netminder Ryan Anderson.
 
Batna’s second of the night came 2:34 later when the Latvian winger twisted a centering pass intended for Matt Perry that deflected off a defender and inside the far post to make it 3-0 Bobcats.
 
Giesler put an exclamation mark on the Cats’ special teams dominance in the first 30 minutes to bring the lead to 4-0, cashing in a shorthanded breakaway that trickled in past Anderson with 11:47 remaining in the second stanza.
 
Minnesota got on the board at 4-1 with 16 seconds left in the middle frame when Brett Heikkila whipped a low shot through traffic on the power play that beat Bobcat goalie Hunter Shepard stick side.
 
Red-hot center Billy Exell put the away side on edge 4:23 into the third, outdueling defender Joe Tyran on a shorthanded one-on-one and sneaking a backhander between Shepard and the short post to cut it to 4-2.
 
When Wilderness head coach Corey Millen pulled Anderson for the extra attacker, second-year forward Darian Romanko ripped a rising snap shot that bounced off Shepard’s blocker and in to pull Minnesota within one at 4-3 with 1:19 to go.
 
Though the Bobcat defense tied up the puck for a huge chunk of the final minute, Minnesota got one last gasp as Ivan Chukarov headed off a clear-out and flared a low shot that created a long rebound to defender Bradley Johnson; Johnson got his put-back attempt off with one second left but Shepard flared out his right leg to deny the opportunity as time expired, securing the 4-3 win.
 
With the victory, the Bobcats became the first team all season to escape Cloquet with four points; the Wilderness entered the 2015 portion of the schedule with a record of 12-1-0 at Northwoods Credit Union Arena.
 
Shepard finished with 33 saves—64 total on the weekend—to win his third straight game and improve to 6-9-0 after starting the season 1-7-0. Anderson stopped 13 straight shots over the back half of the game and 18 overall but could not avoid dropping consecutive regulation decisions for the first time since November 5.
 
The Bobcats will wrap up their three-game road jaunt to open the New Year with a 7:15pm Friday tilt at Larson Ice Center against the Brookings Blizzard, who halted a four-game losing streak Saturday at Austin.
 
Live coverage of Friday’s divisional dustup will begin at 6:45pm 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.
 
Though the 2014-15 season has passed the half-way mark, there is still time to order season tickets for the year; fans who want to lock in their seats for the entire campaign should call the Bobcat office at 222-3300 today!