BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats closed out 2009 with their 19th victory of the season, holding off the red-hot Alexandria Blizzard for a 4-3 triumph in front of a sellout crowd at the VFW Sports Center on New Years Eve.
It was a three-goal second period that propelled the first-place ‘Cats to their fourth straight victory.
Tied at one after the first 20 minutes, Trent Johnson gave the home team a lead they would not relinquish five minutes into the second period, rifling a Sam Rendle transition feed past Alexandria netminder Chris Kamal for a 2-1 edge.
“I thought it was a 2-on-2 all the way, but I heard the bench yelling ‘Three! Three!’ for a 3-on-2,” recalled Rendle, “so I knew someone would be trailing and there Trent was.”
Just 29 seconds Johnson’s fifth of the year, Bobcat forward Ryan Jacobson netted his second of the night, beaming a transition wrister past Kamal’s glove, pushing the lead to 3-1 Bobcats, bringing the crowd of 1,548 at the VFW to its feet.
The Blizzard answered five minutes later, though, when Grant Dye caught a favorable bounce off Bobcat goalie Ryan Faragher, rolling a puck off the reigning NAHL Goalie of the Month and inside the short post to pull the visitors within 3-2.
With 4:02 left in the second, the Bobcats answered back when Rendle lined a low power play shot off an Alexandria defender and in to extend the Bismarck lead back to two goals at 4-2.
Penalties were a big story on Thursday, particularly late in the second when the Bobcats took a double-minor with 53 seconds left in the period and then a bench minor with 39 ticks remaining for a full two minutes of 5-on-3 hockey, which the Bobcats successfully killed, wrapping around into the third period.
The Blizzard would eventually break through on the power play with 10:47 left in regulation, pulling to within one score on Alex Altenbernd’s 7th goal of the year; Alexandria finished 1-for-8 on the power play.
“Every time we killed off a penalty, you could feel the momentum build up on the bench,” said Rendle, who finished with a goal and two assists. “Sure, they got one in our their last [power play] but the way the ‘PK’ was going in the second and early third period was a huge turning point for us.”
The Bobcats took an early lead 9:46 into the game when Jacobson tallied his 17th goal of the season, wristing a transition shot past a screened-out Kamal for the 1-0 lead.
“It was definitely nice to get out to a fast start tonight,” noted Jacobson, who is now tied for fourth league-wide in goals with 18, “there was some worry that we’d be a little flat after nine days off, but we hit Christmas break hot [with three straight wins] and we got another two points from a very good team here [Thursday].”
Alexandria answered with a goal in traffic of their own with 18.5 seconds left in the opening frame off the stick of Chris Franks to tie the game at one heading into the first intermission before the Bobcat offense took flight in the middle frame.
Faragher picked up his 13th win of the season—tying him for fourth in that category among NAHL goalies—on 19 saves.
Kamal dropped to 8-7-2 on the year after making 21 saves; five of his seven losses have come at the hands of the first-place Bobcats.
The Bobcats continue their three-game home weekend on Friday as the North Iowa Outlaws come to town for the first of two 7:15 PM games at the VFW Sports Center.
Friday’s game 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 each night at 6:45 PM.
You won\’t want to miss any of the games this season, so order your Season Tickets, Family Packs and Group Nights today by calling the Bobcat Hockey Office at 701-222-3300 or by e-mailing the office for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.