Brilliant Bitsakis Backstops Bobcats to Blanking of Bruins
BISMARCK, ND — Bismarck Bobcats goalie Alex Bitsakis brought a crowd of 1,338 to its feet early on Friday and never gave them a chance to sit back down, turning aside all 33 shots he faced as the Cats shut out the Austin Bruins 3-0 at the VFW Sports Center.
In his first home start of 2014-15, Bitsakis drew a standing ovation just 1:37 into the game, rising out of the butterfly position to snare a blast from Austin forward Luke Forfar with his catching glove to keep the Bruins off the board early.
The Montreal, Quebec, native and his Austin counterpart, Zach Driscoll, combined for 14 stops in the first period to send the game into the second in a scoreless tie.
When Trevor Boyd, the Bruins' leading scorer, went off for a tripping minor with 6:35 left in the middle frame, it took the Cats a mere 17 seconds to capitalize as Harrison Aide buried a Johnny Witzke rebound to push the home side ahead 1-0.
Just over two minutes after Aide's go-ahead strike, Bitsakis whipped the crowd into a frenzy, denying consecutive chances from Pat Lauderdale, Brady Jones and Cory Dunn in a 17-second span to preserve the lead heading into the third.
With 2:11 gone in the third, the Bobcat power play struck again, this time on a rising point-blank redirect of a Nick Wallace shot by Matt Perry that eluded Driscoll's blocker to double the advantage to 2-0.
Then, with 9:05 left, Bitsakis brought the house down: denying a close-range shot by Patrick Geary, rejecting Jacob Kullberg's attempted put-back of the rebound then finally submitting a blocker rebuke of the third-chance opportunity for Geary to allow his defense to clear the zone.
Evan Giesler put the finishing touches on the Cats' first home win, outracing the Austin defense on a 6-on-4 penalty kill with Driscoll pulled for the extra attacker and tapping the puck into the vacated cage for a shorthanded goal and the final 3-0 margin.
It is the first shutout of the season for the Bobcats, who narrowly missed blanking Kenai River on October 10. Driscoll suffered just his second regulation loss despite a strong 25-save effort.
The Cats now turn their attention to a 7:15pm Saturday bout with yet another rival as they head south to take on the Aberdeen Wings at Odde Ice Center.
Live coverage of Saturday's installment of the Titan Machinery Dakota Cup will begin at 6:45pm 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 is now under way, there is still time to order season tickets for the year; fans who want to lock in their seats for the entire campaign should call the Bobcat office at 222-3300 today!