WENATCHEE, WA – The Bismarck Bobcats are National Champions—winning the North American Hockey League title with a 3-0 blanking of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Robertson Cup Finals Sunday at Town Toyota Center.
The 2010 Robertson Cup—which also serves as USA Hockey’s Tier II Junior “A” National Championship—is the team’s first title since winning the Borne Cup as a member of the AWHL in 2003.
“This is just a special feeling,” said Bobcats head coach Byron Pool on the title win. “I’m at a loss for words.”
For the Bobcats, whose offense piled up 50 goals in their first 10 playoff games of the 2010 postseason, it was the defense that carried the day—allowing only four Ice Dog shots in the first period, 21 shots overall and, at one point, preventing Fairbanks from getting a shot for a span of 11-plus minutes.
As the “D” held the Ice Dogs at bay, the Bobcat offense put the Central Champs on the board with 2:50 left in the first as Tyler Klein found Casey Kleisinger in space behind the Fairbanks defense and Kleisinger powered a low shot through Ice Dog goalie Joe Phillippi’s legs for a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
“It was a great play by Tyler to get it through a tiny lane to the front,” said Kleisinger, who notched at least one point in every Bobcat playoff game, “and the defenseman got caught puck watching a little bit and I had a lot of speed coming into the zone to get the angle on him.”
While shots were more even in the second period, with the Ice Dogs outshooting the ‘Cats 10-7, it was the Bismarck side that got another late goal; Jason Fabian triggered a shorthanded break up the ice that Phillippi raced 25 feet out from his net to break up, but instead fired the puck right into the pads of Nick Jensen. With Phillippi scrambling to get back into the goal, Jensen kicked the puck back to Sam Rendle, whose initial shot was stopped by Phillippi—but Fabian dove and speared the rebound into the Fairbanks net for a 2-0 lead with 2:10 to go in the middle frame.
The Bobcat defense battled the high-powered Ice Dog offense to another standstill in the third, keeping Fairbanks to just seven shots in the final frame before third-year league veteran Sean McKenzie tacked on a little late insurance with an empty-net goal with 1:49 left in the game.
As the final seconds ticked down, Bobcat goalie Ryan Faragher cleared the puck twice off Fairbanks dump-ins to help push the clock to 0:00, earning the Dartmouth recruit his first playoff shutout and triggering a jubilant celebration in front of the Bismarck goal as the Town Toyota Center crowd of 2,070 cheered the newly-crowned champions on.
“I can hear myself say ‘we are National Champions; I’m a National Champion,’ but it doesn’t even sound real yet,” admitted Faragher. “I’m sure it will sink in eventually but right now we’re all just on cloud nine.”
Fabian agreed with Faragher.
“It still hasn’t hit me,” said the Roseau, Minn., native, “but I know soon we’ll realize how special this is and how much we accomplished.”
Bobcat Hockey would like to once again thank all of its fans, staff and sponsors for a wonderful 2009-2010 season—we couldn’t be champions without you!