Alligator Blood

Mar 26, 2017

Second-Period Burst Lifts Bobcats over Wilderness

CLOQUET, MN – In major need of points in the standings in the final five games of the 2016-17 regular season, the Bismarck Bobcats rode a three-goal rush in the second period to a 4-1 victory Saturday over the Minnesota Wilderness at Northwoods Credit Union Arena to close ground in the tightening Central Division playoff chase.

Though the Bobcats had a handful of good opportunities to get on the board in the first, neither team was able to break the scoreless deadlock in the opening 20 minutes.

Moments after an unsuccessful power play expired, the Bobcats tallied the game’s opening goal 2:28 into the second in transition when former Wilderness forward Mitch Walinski sped into the right-wing circle and ripped a sharp-angle wrister over the glove of Minnesota netminder Trevor Micucci for a 1-0 score.

Tristan Ashbrook extended the Cats’ lead to 2-0 with 10:51 on the clock in the same period, creating an offensive zone turnover for Zach Kennedy and pouncing on the co-captain’s rebound for his 12th goal of the season.

Minnesota attempted to start a rally in the second, but were rebuked at every turn by the glove of Bobcat goalie Severi Isokangas, who earned 11 stops in the middle interval.

Before the frame could end, Ashbrook buried another Kennedy rebound at the 1:23 mark to stretch the Cats’ advantage to 3-0 heading into the second intermission.

Right from the puck drop in the third, Minnesota pushed to get back into the game: outshooting the Cats’ 6-0 in the period’s opening minutes before newcomer Will Zmolek spoiled Isokangas’ shutout bid with 17:48 to go in regulation with a low shot through traffic off a faceoff in the Bobcat end.

Unfazed by the goal, Isokangas settled in to turn back the next eight shots sent his way while Matt Barry put the finishing touches on the game, striking from 180 feet away for an empty-netter with 1:16 left for the 4-1 final.

In total, Isokangas made 38 stops on 39 shots for a weekend total of 75 saves while improving to 12-7-1. Micucci—pulled after the second period—took the loss on 21 saves; relief keeper Luke Kania denied all three shots he faced but did not factor into the final decision.

With the win, the Bobcats (27-27-2, 56 pts) pulled back within three points of fourth place—now possessed by Brookings (27-24-5, 59 pts)—and trimmed their differential to five points on third-place Aberdeen (28-23-5, 61 pts) with four games remaining for every team in the Central.

Now in control of their own destiny for a postseason berth, the Bobcats will face the Blizzard in a two-game series, starting Friday at 7:05pm at Larson Ice Center.

Friday’s pivotal clash will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270 AM, and worldwide on–the web television partner of the North American Hockey League–with pregame coverage starting at 6:40pm.

Season tickets for the 2017-18 campaign are now available for pre-order: fans can get more information or reserve their seats for all of next year now by calling 222-3300.