BISMARCK, N.D.–The Bismarck Bobcats saved their best for the final act.
The Bobcats defeated the North Iowa Bulls 6-3 at the VFW Sports Center on Saturday. In a rare opportunity to face the same opponent six consecutive times, Bismarck swept the three-week-long series and outscored North Iowa 25-12.
Despite finishing with a 29-25-6 record and three more points than last year’s playoff team, the Bobcats fell short by a tiebreaker for the fourth and final postseason spot. It is only the third time in the last 15 seasons the team has missed the Robertson Cup playoffs.
In a rather dubious honor, the 2022-23 Bobcats are statistically the best team to ever miss the playoffs since the team joined the NAHL’s Central Division two decades ago. No team with 64 points had ever failed to qualify until this season, a statement to the evenness this time around.
“It is the right way to end the year,” head coach Layne Sedevie said. “Unfortunately, it is over. Crazy when you think about it. Look at how close our division is this year … I am proud of our guys. To beat a team six times (in a row), especially with the parity in our division, it is a tall order to ask, for sure.”
For the third consecutive game, the Bobcats allowed the first goal and had to play from behind right away. They responded by scoring three consecutive times to open up a 3-1 lead. Julian Beaumont scored twice, Brandon Reller once. North Iowa battled back to even the game in the third period, however.
Needing another late-game hero, an unlikely source stepped in. Beaumont set up defenseman Landon Fandel, who ripped a one-timer from the top of the right circle into the upper-right corner of the net. Bismarck regained the lead with 5:46 remaining. Empty-netters from Adam Pietila and Calvin Hanson then sealed the deal.
“It was a great play all around,” Sedevie said. “Lately, we have had somebody step up. I thought Beaumont was really good tonight … I kind of had the same feeling last night, thought we were going to win the game. I felt like we were going to win tonight, too. At similar times of the game in the third, we found the go-ahead goal.”
An appreciative crowd gave the Bobcats team a well-deserved send off, too. In addition to a Friday sellout, Saturday’s game was the second-most-attended contest of the season, only trumped by New Year’s Eve. In Sedevie’s mind, the attendance for 2022-23 is the best he has ever seen in 14 years with the organization.
“It is a fun place to play,” Sedevie said. “This place was rocking. Everybody thinks this is what junior hockey is all about, and that is not necessarily the case. Our fan support is arguably some of the best in junior hockey, and is what makes this place so special. For 26 years, this community has supported this (team).”
Work begins for the 2023-24 season shortly. Fans can stay tuned to www.bismarckbobcats.com, the team’s social media, as well as the Bobcats mobile app for offseason updates and previews for the 27th season of Bobcat hockey. Season tickets are available now at 701-390-7422.