Sharpen Your Claws

BISMARCK, ND – For the second time in 2011-12, the Bismarck Bobcats will play host to the Austin Bruins for a Central Division showdown at 7:15 PM both Thursday and Friday nights at the VFW Sports Center.

Austin has proven to be the biggest thorn in the Bobcats’ side so far this season as the Cats are just 2-1-1 against the Bruins, who have handed the Bobcats their only home loss and their only overtime loss of the season and are the only team in the league to defeat them more than once so far on the year.

“The challenge Austin presents stems from goaltending and defense,” explained Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, “because they’ve got six-plus strong guys on the blue line and you look in net at Tyler Bruggeman and Nick Lehr [who shut out the Bobcats on October 15] and it’s easy to see why they’re sixth in the league in goals against [per game].”

Austin also weighs in with an 88.5% efficiency rating on the penalty kill, in second place tie league-wide with the Bobcats.

Tackling the Bruins’ stout ‘PK’ is a primary concern for the Bobcats in the upcoming series.

“They like to put on heavy pressure so we need to be smart with the puck but also move it fast,” noted Bobcats defenseman Donald Olivieri, whose 11 goals lead all NAHL blueliners. “We need to get their killers running and find the open guy fast and try to catch them out of position.

“And when we get a chance, we’ve got to bury it.”

The Bobcats enter Thursday’s game on a three-game win streak and are 7-0-1 in their last eight games while the Bruins had a three-game streak of their own snapped Sunday with a 2-1 loss at Alexandria that dropped Austin one point behind the Blizzard for second place.

After the Bobcats suffered a big loss, personnel-wise, in their last meeting with the Bruins when leading scorer Frank DeAugustine was lost indefinitely to a concussion, the news on the injury front is a bit more positive heading into the upcoming weekend as defenseman John Furgele will return to full duty after missing nearly two months to a shoulder injury.

“Having John back defensively will make a huge difference,” added Sedevie of Furgele, who had three goals and five assists before going down in early November, “he moves the puck well and can make great plays on the rush, but the big thing is that his game in our end has improved so much this year, and that will be big to have again.”

The two-game series opens Thursday night with a 7:15 PM puck drop.

Thursday’s contest 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!