WENATCHEE, WA – The Bismarck Bobcats dropped a 2-1 decision to the Wenatchee Wild Friday in Game Three of the 2010 Robertson Cup Tournament Friday, but still locked up their second ever berth in the NAHL’s national championship game.
“We couldn’t be happier to be headed to the finals,” said Bobcats forward Jason Fabian. “A lot of us have a bad taste in our mouths after last year’s showing at nationals [1-3 at the 2009 Robertson Cup] and this year’s team battled through a tough start and we’ve come a long way, but now we’re a win on Sunday away from the Cup.”
The news of the Bobcats’ (2-1) clinching tempered any anxiety caused by the team’s 2-1 loss in front of over 3,000 screaming Wild fans in a tension-packed thriller on the fourth day of round robin play.
“That was the best game all year, for any two teams, anywhere in this league,” marveled Bobcat netminder Jake Williams, who made 38 saves in the losing effort. “There were times that I was standing in the net and thinking ‘Man, is this fun!’ There was so much emotion and urgency on both sides; just a great game.”
Friday’s nailbiter opened with a scoreless first period that saw the ‘Cats outshoot the Wild 13-12 but Williams and Wenatchee counterpart Brendan Jensen went back and forth with big saves for both sides.
In the second, the Bobcats’ penalty kill hit a snag as Wild forward Jeff Jubinville rocketed home a Ryan Timar back-door feed on the power play to boost the home side to a 1-0 lead 6:39 into the middle frame.
Jubinville extended the lead with his second of the night—also on the power play—with 3:48 left in the second stanza, firing a rolling shot that bounced up off Williams and into the net, making it 2-0 Wenatchee.
In the third, Bobcats defenseman Sam Rendle picked up his fourth goal of the tournament, beaming a low shot through traffic and past Jensen to slice the lead to 2-1 with 8:13 left in regulation.
The Wild, however, would not let the ‘Cats draw any closer, shutting down the visitors with strong shotblocking and defensive zone presence—sealing their first win of the tournament at 2-1.
Jensen was the undisputed star of the game, making 39 saves including numerous stops on point-blank Bobcat opportunities.
Williams believes the adversity will benefit that ‘Cats.
“We hit a snag and we know we’re not perfect, and that’s okay,” noted the Montreal, Que., native. “Now we know how tough it is to lose a close game like that and we don’t want to have that happen again.”
The fact that the loss was only by one goal secured the Bobcats both pertinent tiebreakers to make Sunday’s final should the Central Division Champs not prevail over Fairbanks on Saturday (a win ensures a berth): head-to-head victories over Traverse City and St. Louis should the Bandits defeat the Wild in Saturday’s round-robin finale; and common goal differential (+4) over Wenatchee (0) and Traverse City (-4) should the Wild beat the Bandits.
Common goal differential, the second tiebreaker in a three-way tie after head-to-head, refers to the goal differential in the games played between the three teams tied.
The Bobcats wrap up round robin play Saturday against the surprising Fairbanks Ice Dogs (2-1) at 4:35 PM (Central Time). The Ice Dogs face a must-win situation in the contest, as a loss would eliminate the West Division representative.
Bobcat fans in Bismarck are encouraged to attend Saturday’s 4:30 PM viewing party at Reza’s Pitch on the corner of 3rd St. and Front St. to watch the game live on the big screens and cheer on the ‘Cats in their quest for their first ever Robertson Cup!
The entire Robertson Cup Tournament will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide at BismarckBobcats.com via B2 Networks. Saturday’s pre-game show gets underway at 4:05 PM.