Rally: Denied

BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats persevered for their 27th win of 2011-12, battling through a late two-goal rally from the Austin Bruins to edge Austin 4-3 in the shootout Thursday at the VFW Sports Center.

It was the visiting Bruins who got on the board first with 6:08 left in the first period when second-year forward Charlie Adams collected a Jeremy Finger rebound and flicked it past Bobcat goalie Tommy Burke to post the Bruins to a 1-0 lead.

“We definitely did not get out to the start we hoped for,” conceded Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie after his team failed to score first for only the 11th time in 33 games. “Austin kind of took it to us early and our guys had to dig deep to get back into it.

Luckily for the Bobcats, the goal seemed to awaken the front-running home side.

On the very next shift, Dan Zawacki took an entry feed from Adam Knochenmus, deked through two Bruin defenders and fired a pinballing shot that deflected past Austin goalie Tyler Bruggeman to tie the score 1-1 just 17 seconds after Adams’ opening strike.

“Our line took the ice knowing we needed to make something happen,” recalled Zawacki, who leads the Bobcats with 35 points. “We needed something to get a spark and got a good rush that [Tyler] Richter and [Jeremy] O’Keefe started to get right back into it.”

The Bobcats surged ahead late in the second when Bryce Schmitt won a faceoff back to Donald Olivieri and proceeded to deflect Olivieri’s slapshot over Bruggeman’s glove and in for a 2-1 Bobcat edge with 3:20 left in the middle frame.

Nick Miglio tacked on what appeared to be an insurance tally 8:42 into the third, beating Bruggeman low stick off of a turnover caused by Grant Mindt to push the score to 3-1 in favor of the Cats.

Austin, however, would not be denied as C.J. Smith started the Bruins’ last-minute rally with a power play strike off a rebound in front of Burke to chop the lead to 3-2 with 3:56 left in regulation.

John Simonson brought the game to level 2:14 later, winning a faceoff in the Bobcats end out of a timeout right to himself and ripping a five-hole shot past Burke for a 3-3 deadlock.

Neither team was able to connect in the ensuing overtime—though Austin missed a pair of open nets in the extra frame—bringing the contest to a decisive shootout.

Tommy Burke held firm through all seven Bruins shooters as the shootout entered sudden death in the sixth and seventh rounds, keeping Austin scoreless despite every Bruin shooter hitting the net with their chances.

“A couple of guys took shots, but for the most part they tried to make moves,” noted Burke, who is alone in second place league-wide with 18 wins, “so when they started dekeing, I tried to stay low because they were trying to beat me to the ground with low shots.”

The first six Bobcats shooters failed to solve Bruggeman—though rookie Ryan Callahan rang the post after beating the third-year netminder to the stick side in the sixth round—but Knochenmus, who extended last Friday’s shootout in Aberdeen, had the answer.

As Knochenmus carried through the middle, Bruggeman read a deke from the Roseau, Minn., native and tried to challenge, but Knochenmus beat him to the punch and ripped a low liner over the netminder’s outstretched arm to deliver the Cats the 4-3 victory.

“I watched him all the way and he came out and tried to throw the poke at me,” explained Knochenmus, who is 2-for-2 in shootout chances after Thursday’s heroics. “He came at me a bit too early, though, and it left the whole left side open to shoot at—I just had to make sure to hit the net.”

Burke totaled 27 saves in all in the win while Bruggeman suffered the tough-luck loss, just his third after regulation, despite an impressive 42 saves.

The Bobcats and Bruins will wrap up their two-game set Friday with a 7:15 PM rematch at the VFW Sports Center.

Friday’s series finale 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 6:45.

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!