Blair’s Hat Trick Powers 8-3 Playoff Win
BISMARCK, ND – Seth Blair netted his first career hat trick, Patrick Moore provided two more goals and the Bismarck Bobcats routed the Brookings Blizzard 8-3 Friday at the VFW Sports Center to seize a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five game Central Division Semifinals.
In a nip-and-tuck first period, Matt Anders got the Bobcats on the board for a 1-0 lead at the 17:04 mark when the rookie forward found a lane to the front of the net and zipped a low backhander past Blizzard goalie Drew Weigman.
Brookings’ top regular season scorer and captain, Thomas Williams, tied the game 1-1 for the Blizzard with 12:41 left in the first one-timing a centering pass from Evan Hesse past Bobcat netminder Aaron Nelson on a delayed penalty call against the Cats.
After a lengthy forecheck by Bob Kinne and Joe Giordano tilted momentum in favor of the second-seeded Bobcats, Stanislav Dzakhov sent a perfect centering feed to Evan Giesler while falling down that Giesler sent in with a backhand to post the Cats to a 2-1 lead with just 15 seconds remaining in the opening frame.
“We were able to get extended pressure for almost two minutes in Brookings’ zone there near the end of the first,” recalled Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, whose record improved to 3-0 in home playoff openers as head coach, “to the point that we got a full line change in from the far end. From there our guys worked hard to keep it deep and Stan made a great play to set up ‘Gies’ for a big goal.”
A mere 45 seconds into the second, Moore doubled the lead to two at 3-1 when the second-year forward grabbed a centering feed on the rush from Shane Omdahl and blasted a one-timer into the upper-90 of the Blizzard net.
Nelson provided a turning point for the homestanding Bobcats with 11:29 to go in the second stanza, reacting to his left to deny a short one-time attempt by Hesse off a no-look pass from Eric Brenk to keep the lead at two.
“Nelly made a couple of big saves for us tonight and deserves a lot of credit,” noted Sedevie, who rode Nelson to five wins in the 2012 divisional playoffs, “he held us in the game when it was close and gave our offense a chance to take over in the second half [Friday].”
When Williams was assessed 12 penalty minutes for a hit from behind along the wall on Bobcat assistant captain Jeremy O’Keefe with 4:29 to go in the middle frame, the Cats’ power play didn’t wait very long to strike: just eight seconds into the man advantage, Blair gathered a Filip Starzynski rebound and tapped it in before Weigman could recover to push the lead out to 4-1.
As he did earlier in the stanza, Moore volleyed home another quick-strike goal only 21 seconds after Blair’s power play marker, collecting a pass in the slot from Anders and popping a quick snap shot past Weigman.
Moore’s second of the night made it 5-1 and closed the book on Brookings’ rookie goalie, who finished with 26 saves and the loss in his first career playoff start; Chase Wilson was called in to replace Weigman for the final 24 minutes of the contest.
Blair kept the Cats’ rally going 4:00 into the third when the former Minot Minotauro grabbed an entry pass from Kinne on a 2-on-1 and ripped it under Wilson’s glove to stretch the lead to 6-1.
At the 11:31 mark of the third, Blair put a cap on the Cats’ six-goal surge and completed the hat trick on a 3-on-2 rush when the second-year forward blasted home a one-timer off a Nate Repensky setup for a commanding 7-1 advantage for the home side.
With that tally, Century High product became the second Bismarck native in as many years to record a hat trick on the first night of the playoffs, following Tyler Richter’s three-goal performance on April 6, 2012, against Aberdeen.
Though Blair’s third-period markers removed most of the drama from the third period, Brookings managed a pushback on running goals from Eetu Karvinen and Williams to cut the score to 7-3 with 3:39 remaining in the game.
“You look at those two late goals for Brookings and we made some sloppy, uncharacteristic plays to give them some life,” explained Sedevie. “These are mistakes that we need to clean up heading into Game Two [Saturday].”
Rookie forward Cory Chapman added a late exclamation mark for the Bobcats’ final margin of 8-3, however, teeing up a one-timer from Giesler for his first career playoff goal with 1:56 remaining in regulation.
Nelson needed just 20 saves to pick up his sixth career playoff win; Wilson made 19 saves in his playoff debut but did not factor into the decision. All told, the Bobcats launched 53 shots at the Blizzard net Friday.
The two sides will reconvene for Game Two of the Central Division Semifinals Saturday at the VFW Sports Center with a 7:15 PM puck drop.
Tickets for Saturday’s game are on sale right now by calling the box office at 222-3300 or buying and printing tickets online at www.BismarckBobcats.com.
Saturday’s rematch 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 6:45 PM.