Twenty Won

Bobcats Pull Away from Blizzard for Twentieth Win
 
BISMARCK, ND – Shaking off an early deficit, the Bismarck Bobcats popped off five of the game’s last six goals Saturday to cruise to their 20th win over 2014-15, 5-2 over the visiting Brookings Blizzard at the VFW Sports Center.
 
It was Brookings who would draw first blood with 4:05 gone in the first as forward-turned-defenseman Zach Glienke grabbed the puck in neutral ice and raced into the Bobcat end then used the Cats’ defense as a screen to fire a low shot past goalie Alex Bitsakis for a quick 1-0 lead for the Blizzard.
 
That advantage would only last 126 seconds, however; Cullen Willox tied it up at one on the power play, blasting a one-timer from Jared Spooner inside the left post before Blizzard netminder Eric Hancock could get in position. With the goal, Willox now has six goals and nine assists in his last 10 games.
 
The power play would strike again late in the first when Bismarck High product Jared Spooner intercepted an attempted clear from the Blizzard defense, dart out into the low slot and rip a short wrister under Hancock’s blocker to give the home side their first lead at 2-1.
 
J.M. Piotrowski would stretch the edge to 3-1 with 12:04 remaining in the second, taking a Jared Turcotte centering pass at the Brookings blue line, tapping the puck through a defender’s legs then leaning right before whipping a low shot back to his left that eluded Hancock. The tally gave Piotrowski three on the weekend and four in his last four games.
 
Just as they did Friday, though, Brookings hung around late in the second when newly acquired forward Zed Dietrich poked a Beau Michaud rebound out from under Bitsakis and in before the whistle could sound, bringing the score to 3-2 with 4:06 to go in the frame.
 
With the game hanging in the balance to start the third, the Bobcat forecheck went on a dominant run: pinning the puck in the Blizzard zone for over a minute and a half, culminating in Jared Pike making a point-blank redirect of a Tony German shot that beat Hancock five-hole to stretch the lead to 4-2 just 2:13 into the stanza.
 
“Our defensive zone was an issue at times tonight, and we let [Brookings] stay in the game at the end of the second,” assessed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, whose team entered Saturday just 2-5-1 in their last eight home games, “so it was important for us to respond after that and get the next goal.”
 
After Pike’s fourth of the year, the Bobcat defense made it tough sledding for the Blizzard, holding the visitors to just three shots in the third—tying a season-low for shots allowed in a period.
 
Veteran blueliner Nick Wallace put a bow on the Cats’ rally with three seconds left, cashing in a surprising forecheck with Hancock pulled for Brookings with a rising slap shot that found the back of the cage for the final score of 5-2 to complete the home-and-home sweep.
 
It marked the fourth straight win for the Bobcats, matching a season high.
 
Bitsakis turned in 20 saves to halt a personal two-game skid and secure his 13th victory of the season. Hancock stopped 26 of 30 Bobcat shots but slipped to 6-9-3 in his rookie campaign.
 
Now the Bobcats’ attention turns to a Thursday road game against the red-hot Minot Minotauros, who are 12-1-0 in their last 13 contests, at 7:05pm at Maysa Arena.
 
Live coverage of Thursday’s intrastate rivalry tilt will begin at 6:35pm 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 rest of the campaign should call the Bobcat office at 222-3300 today!