BISMARCK, ND–No lead is safe in the Bobcat-Wings series.
No lead at all.
After Bismarck scored a power play goal in the third period to rebuild a two-goal edge, Aberdeen responded with a power play goal, and extra attacker goal, and four straight shootout saves by All-Star goalie Chad Catt for a 4-3 (SO) win over the Bobcats in Bismarck Friday night.
Home ice has been no advantage in this series, nor for the Bobcats lately. Bismarck ( 21-10-4) fell to 1-5 in their last six at home, dropping the last three in the series with the Wings at the VFW Sports Center, after winning two straight in Aberdeen.
The result did little to clear the gritty path of the NAHL Central Division race. Aberdeen (22-12-2) catches, but does not pass the Bobcats, in the standings, and both teams end the night a single point behind Austin for the top spot, who defeated Minot at home.
Head coach Layne Sedevie saw a pattern that the Bobcats have struggled to shake off reappear, as his team fell to 8-6-4 in one-goal games this year.
“We made mistakes,” Sedevie explained. “We turned over a puck in the slot, and it ended up in the back of our net. We had to stay out of the box, and we didn’t.”
The penalty box played a key role in the game’s result. With Aberdeen sporting the best power play in the NAHL, the Bobcats stayed out of the box until the final five minutes of the game.
The effort was not enough.
Huba Sekesi (Munich, Germany), who converted on the power play at 6:39 of the third, took an elbow to the face from Kyle Haak, and responded with a few moves of the stick, drawing a hooking call at 14:51. Just 21 seconds later, at 15:12, Erik Baskin finished a crisp, mechanical man-advantage with a wrister, cutting the Bobcat lead to 3-2.
Bismarck held the lead till the final minute, when Aberdeen sent the extra attacker on the ice. A flurry toward the net saw Bobcat netminder Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) to slide to the left of the crease. The puck flashed to the opposite side, and Haak scored the tying goal at 19:15, forcing overtime.
Overtime was dominated by the Bobcats, with Aberdeen clearly willing to take their chances in the shootout with Catt in net, as they opened their offense with only one short flurry. Aberdeen got the shootout they wanted, then watched it start in the Bobcat’s direction, with Nelson kicking away an Erik Goolenbeck attempt, then Joonas Huovinen (Oulu, Finland) easily beating Catt for a 1-0 Bobcat edge.
Catt responded with four straight stops, with Erik Baskin and Tanner Okeson scoring for the Wings in the second and fourth rounds, respectively, winning the shootout and a 4-3 final decision for the Wings.
It was a disappointing end to a brilliant start for the Bobcat offense. Their first two-goal lead was built when Jacob McDowell (Dimondale, MI) pulled a puck from a defender and beat Catt at 4:05 of the first, and Cullen Willox (Eagan, MN) redirected a Dan Kovar (Bismarck, ND) blast at 15:10, leading to a 2-0 Bobcat lead after one.
Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) and Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia) each joined the 30-point club with assists on Sekesi’s power-play score in the third, which rebuilt the margin after TJ Roo cut the lead by burying a turnover in the Bobcat slot in the second. For Roo, it was his fifth goal and 11th point against the Bobcats this season, numbers that reflect half of his total goals and over a third of his now-28 points.
The Bobcats face Brookings to end the weekend Saturday night at the VFW Sports Center. Tickets are still available by calling 222-3300 or logging on to www.bismarckbobcats.com.