Z for Vendetta

BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats got three points from Dan Zawacki and traded three-goal rallies with the Aberdeen Wings, pulling away from the second-place Wings for a wild and penalty-filled 6-4 win Saturday at the VFW Sports Center.

With the victory the Bobcats seize an 11-point lead in the Central Division over second-place Alexandria and jump out to a 10-1 lead in points in the Titan Machinery Dakota Cup.

The Bobcats took the early lead on John Furgele’s third goal of the year as the second-year defenseman rocketed a centering feed from Zawacki over Wings goalie Hunter Leisner’s glove with 5:38 left in the first for a 1-0 lead.

On the play, Furgele took a late hit and suffered a serious shoulder injury that could force him to miss significant time. The Philadelphia native will see a specialist Monday for further evaluation.

Furgele’s regular defensive partner Grant Mindt picked up where his fallen comrade left off to double the lead, trigging a Bobby Orr-esque rush up-ice, putting a low shot on net and creating a juicy rebound that Patrick Moore popped home for a 2-0 Bobcats lead with 3:03 to go in the first.

“Grant played with a lot of intensity and came up big when we were losing D-men to injury tonight,” credited Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, also referencing a foot injury that ended blueliner Dan Kovar’s night in the third. “He did the same thing for us last season and he was a huge lift on the back-end tonight.”

Aberdeen responded with a big second-period rally, starting 67 ticks into the middle frame when Lane Mahoney blasted a shot from the point on a 5-on-3 power play that penalty killer Bryce Schmitt inadvertently deflected over netminder Aaron Nelson’s glove to cut the lead to 2-1.

Bobcat-killer Steve Obarzanek scored his 14th goal of the year—and seventh against the black and gold—with 3:13 left in the second to pull Aberdeen even, converting a 2-on-1 pass from Bob Bruski for the equalizer.

Joseph Sullivan capped the Wings’ furious rally 11 seconds later, capitalizing on confusion in the Bobcats’ defensive zone to launch a 25-foot shot that bounced off of Nelson and into the net for Aberdeen’s first lead of the night.

Undeterred by Aberdeen’s surge, Zawacki pulled the Cats even a mere 44 seconds after Sullivan’s go-ahead tally, lancing home a Frank DeAugustine rebound for a 3-3 tie heading into the second intermission.

“We didn’t want to get too down that [Aberdeen] had taken the lead on us,” recalled Zawacki, who finished with a three-point night, “so me and Frankie and Adam [Knochenmus] went out there with the intent to work hard and it paid off.”

Knochenmus continued the Bobcats’ response 55 seconds into the third, grabbing a feed in the slot from Zawacki and blistering a perfectly placed wrist shot over Leisner’s glove to give the Cats a lead they’d never give back at 4-3.

Filip Starzynski capped the Cats’ three-goal run with 11:38 remaining in the game, deflecting a point-shot from Bryce Anderson through Leisner’s legs to push the lead to 5-3.

Obarzanek continued his reign of terror against the Bobcats late in the game, making things interesting with a rebound goal on a broken play to slice the lead to 5-4 with 4:27 remaining.

Two late penalties, however, hampered the Wings’ comeback hopes and Grant Mindt sealed the game with a rare empty net, power play goal with five seconds left for the final 6-4 count.

The two sides combined for fifty penalty minutes, leaving both Sedevie and Wings coach Pete Sauer visibly frustrated with the officiating.

“[Lead official Pete Schlittenhardt] has really hammered us on penalties a few other games, too, so we just had to decide as a group to not let it bother us and play hard through all the calls,” noted Mindt, a key cog on the Cats’ penalty kill, which finished 7-for-8 Saturday. “Nothing we can do about a ref, so we controlled what we could control.”

Nelson finished with 18 saves but improved his record to 4-1-0, including two wins over Aberdeen. On the other side, Leisner dropped to 6-8-2 despite 39 saves. In games not involving the Bobcats, Leisner is 6-4-1.

The Bobcats get a season-high six days off before returning to action with a 7:30 PM road showdown against the Alexandria Blizzard at the Runestone Center. It is the Cats’ first trip to western Minnesota since shocking the top-seed Blizzard in game five of the 2011 Central Division Semifinals.

Saturday’s matchup of the Central’s top two teams 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 7:00. Fans can watch the game—and all away contests—live at Reza’s Pitch at Third and Front in Bismarck, the official away game home of Bobcat Hockey.

Season tickets are now on sale for 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 this season!