Third Period Burst Lifts Cats to Series Lead

BISMARCK, ND – With 1,242 screaming fans roaring their approval, the Bismarck Bobcats rattled off four straight goals to claim a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-five Central Division Semifinals courtesy of a 6-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard Friday at the VFW Sports Center.

Trailing 3-2 halfway through the second period, the Bobcats started their rally on the power play as Matt Gates drove home a centering feed from Dan Zawacki to force a 3-3 tie with 8:19 to go.

In the third veteran forward Sam Dougherty forced a neutral zone turnover, creating a short-angle breakaway into the Blizzard zone and beat former teammate Jake Williams five-hole to boost the Cats to a 4-3 edge with 11:37 left in regulation.

“We worked on our neutral-zone positioning against Alexandria all week,” noted 2011 Top Prospects selection Dougherty, “and [Nick] Miglio forced his guy to the right so that the only pass was to my guy, and coach [Layne Sedevie] told us all week to read the pass and that’s what I did.”

Frank DeAugustine extended the home side’s lead with 3:41 to go, using Miglio as a decoy on a 2-on-1 rush and dangling to the low slot for a rising backhander that hit the back stanchion of Williams’ net and popped right back out.

The Blizzard furiously argued that the puck never went in, but referee Ken Anderson upheld his initial ruling, giving the Bobcats a 5-3 edge.

“Honestly I didn’t see if it went in,” admitted DeAugustine, who also scored in Bismarck’s 5-1 Game Two victory, “I got the shot off but my momentum was carrying me past the post. When I turned around I saw a rebound and started going after the puck but the ref was signaling goal.”

Emerson Auvenshine put the icing on the cake with 25 seconds remaining, popping an empty-net goal in for the final 6-3 margin.

The first period was an even affair, with the teams trading goals as a defensive zone turnover by the Blizzard turned into a top-shelf snipe from Castan Sommer 2:05 into the game.

Alexandria answered just over a minute later as Casey Purpur finished a 3-on-1 rush for the Blizzard with a low shot past Bobcat goalie Tommy Burke.

Gates put the Cats back ahead with 12:54 left in the first, poking a loose puck through Williams’ legs for a 2-1 edge.

The Blizzard answered with two straight goals: Brent Bain banging home a centering feed from Nardo Nagtzaam mid-way through the first and Steve Zierke depositing a Bain rebound on the power play to grab their first—and only—lead at 3-2 with 4:09 gone in the second period before the Bobcats started their rally.

Friday’s crowd was the fourth straight game of 1,000-plus fans at the VFW Sports Center, and Sedevie said the raucous supporters made a difference.

“Sometimes people don’t know just how key a home crowd can be,” noted Sedevie, “but [Friday] our fans boosted our guys at the right time and helped build momentum in big spots down the stretch. I can’t say enough; thank you so much to our fans. They were great.”

Burke made 30 saves to improve to 2-0 in the postseason for the Cats.

Williams fell to 1-2 in the 2011 postseason despite 36 stops.

The fourth-seeded Bobcats have a chance to knock the regular season Central champion Blizzard out of the playoffs and make their third straight Division Final with an elimination game looming Saturday. Game Four is scheduled for a 7:15 PM puck drop at the VFW Sports Center.

Saturday’s pivotal contest will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide at http://nahl.fasthockey.com/. Pre-game coverage will begin at 6:45 PM CT.

Season tickets are now on sale for the 2011-12 season! Call the Bobcat Hockey office at (701) 222-3300 or email gobobcathockey@aol.com for more information on reserving your seats for next season!

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