BISMARCK, ND–Maximum effort is required to break out of a seven-game slide.
Maximum effort, and then some, and then a bit more, was given by the Bobcats Friday night.
Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia) wrote another page in his Bobcat hero book, using a wrist shot with blinding velocity to clinch a 4-3 shootout win for the Bobcats over the Minnesota Wilderness Friday night at the VFW Sports Center.
Goalie Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) kept the Bobcats in position with four straight stops in the shootout, including standing his ground against a 360-pivot from Johno May in the second round, then a leaping glove grab against Thomas Lindstrom in the fourth round.
Dzakhov poked the puck well beyond his initial reach at the start of his overtime approach, then barely gathered it before spying an opening against the league’s best save percentage (.951) in Kasimir Kaskisuo. With still a pair of strides left before the paint, he launched the puck by Kaskisuo’s glove for the win, sending the crowd to a frenzy and the Bobcat bench to mob Dzakhov and Nelson as a seven-game losing streak ended.
The Bobcats (29-20-4) moved to 62 points in the NAHL Central Division standings, and closed the gap with first-place Austin to seven points. The Wilderness (30-13-9) remain 13 behind Midwest-leading Fairbanks.
“If Wednesday night wasn’t 'rock-bottom', I’ve never felt it,” said Bobcat head coach Layne Sedevie, referring to a home loss to Aberdeen after leading 4-3 with 8:30 to go. “Those guys were really dejected, and to come out and play like tonight was unbelievable."
If there was hangover from Wednesday night’s loss, the Bobcats did not show it. Tanner Salsberry (Plainfield, IL) energized his team early in the first, cleaning out Michael Covatch with a shoulder-to-sternum collision, then dropping Tyler Hart with one solid right cross to the chin after Hart tried to earn his teammate's retribution.
Salsberry took a minor for charging, while Hart struggled to get to his feet, then was taken to the locker room.
After falling behind 1-0, the Bobcats quickly rallied for the lead. Ryan Callahan (Grafton, ND) finished a beautiful Evan Giesler (Naperville, IL) backhanded feed with a one-timer at 16:30 of the first.
In the waning minutes of the first, Nathan Flynn (Hastings, MN) came clear on a rush to the left circle, leading a two-on-one rush. He took the shot and squeezed between the pipe and Kaskisuo’s stick hand, building a 2-1 Bobcat lead at 19:31.
Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play marker, scooping a draw on the top of the right cricle just three seconds into the man-advantage, then firing a slap-shot through traffic for a 3-2 edge at 5:32 of the third.
Lately, late-game luck had not leaned the Bobcats’ way, and neither had penalty kill luck. Both reared their head when Callahan took an unfortunate tripping call at 11:08 of the third. He was ruled guilty of the infraction when Covatch fell into his left side, and then fell over his stick.
Seventeen seconds later, at 11:25, Ivan Chukarov picked up a puck rotated to the weak side circle, and finished a one-timer to tie the game at 3-3, the score that would stand to overtime.
The Bobcats dominated the four-on-four overtime, denying the Wilderness a single shot while creating chances that were just short. But confidence was high headed to the shootout, a place where the Wilderness had won only twice in eight previous chances.
Repensky scored the first shootout marker in the second round, using his methodical approach down the heart of the slot, then lifting the puck into Kaskisuo’s top-shelf. The shot grazed Kaskisuo’s shoulder, but fell behind him and slowly trickled over the line for the score.
Nelson then set the Bobcats up for the win by calmly shutting down Eric Brenk with a kick save, then his highlight-reel layout and glove snare on Lindstrom’s effort. The crowd roared when they saw Dzakhov jump off the bench with a chance to end the game, then roared again as his winner moved the back of the net.
“This was a big win, no question,” added Sedevie of the performance. “This was as close to 60 minutes as we’ve played. We ended a streak that I hope we never have again.”
The Bobcats host the Wilderness again Saturday night at 7:15. Tickets are available at 222:3300 or online at www.bismarckbobcats.com.