ALEXANDRIA, MN – The Bismarck Bobcats are once again Central Division Champions after sweeping the Alexandria Blizzard out of the Central Finals courtesy of a 3-1 Game Three win at the Runestone Center Friday.
It is the Bobcats’ second straight Central Cup, following last year’s epic five-game divisional final win over the Owatonna Express.
Game Three had the early feel of a cliffhanger, as well, as the two sides battled to a scoreless stalemate over halfway through the second period.
The Bobcats finally broke through courtesy of a strong forecheck from the line of Trent Johnson, Brett Bower and Bryce Schmitt that Johnson finished, chopping home a Schmitt rebound over Blizzard goalie Chris Kamal for a 1-0 visitors’ lead with just 4:38 left in the middle frame.
Regular season goals leader Ryan Jacobson extended the lead with 33 seconds left in the second, one-timing a back-door pass around Kamal for a 2-0 Bobcat edge heading to the second intermission.
Casey Kleisinger added some late insurance for the Bobcats, using a Blizzard defender as a screen on Kamal in transition and ripping a low snapshot home to push the lead to 3-0 with 8:33 remaining in the third.
Blizzard forward Nardo Nagtzaam pulled Alexandria back into the game with 4:01 left, however, finishing a 2-on-1 with Tyler Resch under Bobcat netminder Ryan Faragher to slice the lead to 3-1.
Faragher, who made critical saves in all three periods, helped clamp down on the home side after Nagtzaam’s score, making a couple crowd-silencing saves in the final four minutes to preserve the Bobcats’ 3-1 victory.
The Fort Frances, Ont., native made 31 saves to improve to 2-0 in the 2010 Robertson Cup Playoffs.
Kamal, getting his first start in the series, came up with numerous impressive saves to hold the Blizzard in Game Three—including three on Bobcat breakaways—was the hard-luck loser, making 32 stops in defeat.
The Bobcats now advance to their second straight Robertson Cup Tournament, starting May 4th in Wenatchee, Wash. The full schedule for the National Tournament will be released early this coming week by the North American Hockey League.
Joining the Bobcats at the 2010 Robertson Cup will be the host Wenatchee Wild, the North Division Champion Traverse City North Stars, the West Division representative Fairbanks Ice Dogs and the winner of the St. Louis vs. Topeka South Division Final—the Bandits currently hold a 2-1 series edge on the Roadrunners.
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. The pre-game show starts one half-hour before each contest.