BISMARCK, ND–With a one-point lead over Austin for first place, and a three-point edge over Aberdeen, the Bismarck Bobcats (28-15-4) enter a weekend home-and-home with the Brookings Blizzard (13-28-7) this Friday and Saturday.
Friday night will see the Bobcats travel to Brookings, the final road game of a stretch of nine road games in the last ten played. Brookings returns the favor to Bismarck Saturday.
The Bobcats dropped a pair of one-goal games in Cloquet, MN last weekend, losses of 3-2 and 2-1 to the Minnesota Wilderness. Bismarck’s road record in the first eight of the nine road games in this torrid stretch is 4-4.
In one-goal games this season, the Bobcats are now 10-9-4, earning 24 of a possible 46 points, a points percentage of .522. Of the teams chasing Bismarck for the division lead, Austin is 10-3-1 in one-goal games (.875), and Aberdeen is 15-7-3 (.660).
However, with Brookings involved this weekend, the record against comparative opponents favors the Bobcats. Bismarck is 8-2 versus Brookings this season. Austin is just 6-4-1 against the Blizzard. Aberdeen is 6-1-1.
Veterans have been the key to Bobcat success against Brookings this season. Backstopper Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) has a 1.61 goals against average and a .945 saves percentage in 10 games against the Blizzard this season.
Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia) and Tyler Dunagan (Maple Grove, MN) each have nine points in games facing Brookings this season, with Matt Anders (Lafayette, CO) registering eight. Anders’ four goals leads the team, with Dzakhov tallying three goals and Dunagan a goal and eight helpers.
It’s been over a month since the two teams have faced one another. The Bobcats took the last matchup with the Blizzard 3-2 in Bismarck back on January, with Ryan Callahan (Grafton, ND) scoring the game-winner and Chris Diver (Wilmington, DE) picking up two assists.
The Bobcats were shut out 2-0 the previous night, however, one of only three shutouts posted against the Bobcats all season, and the only shutout they have suffered on their home ice. Bismarck managed just 19 shots on goal against Blizzard netminder Connor Girard that evening.
Girard has been the main building block acquired by the Blizzard for the second-half run. Picked up in a trade with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, Girard has earned a 7-11-1 record with a team that has scored the third-fewest goals in the NAHL. He has a 2.70 goals against average and a .921 saves percentage.
Both games are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. faceoffs. Tickets for Saturday’s games in Bismarck are available at 222-3300 or online at www.bismarckbobcats.com.