BISMARCK, ND – Facing a 2-0 deficit late in the second period, the Bismarck Bobcats came charging back to score three unanswered goals Saturday and sweep the visiting Albert Lea Thunder 3-2 at the VFW Sports Center.
After neither team was able to find the back of the net through the first 31 minutes of play, the Thunder opened the scoring for the second straight night as Stephen Obarzanek tipped a Chris Cass rebound past Bobcat goalie Ryan Faragher with 8:52 left in the second period to boost Albert Lea to a 1-0 lead.
A minute and 35 seconds later, Thunder defenseman Bryan Mitchell beat a screened-out Faragher with a 40-foot shot through traffic to extend the Albert Lea lead and silence the crowd of 1,345 at the VFW Sports Center.
The ‘Cats needed only five minutes to respond, however, as Sean McKenzie threaded a breakaway pass that sprung Aaron Quick for a breakaway into the Albert Lea zone; on the break, Quick was able to tuck a backhander past Thunder netminder Nikofor Szczerba to cut the visitors’ edge to 2-1 with 2:04 left in the second.
“On our breakout, I was up at the red line and noticed their ‘D’ were pinching in a bit too far, so I called to Sean for the puck,” recalled Quick, who was acquired a week and a half ago from the Wichita Falls Wildcats. “Mac hit me with a perfect feed and I think I caught Szczerba a little out of position and was able to beat him far post.”
It would only take the Bobcats another 65 seconds to even the score when leading goal-scorer Ryan Jacobson fired a low-liner that kicked into the air off of Szczerba’s stick and bounced into the net to tie the game at two with 59.9 seconds left in the middle frame.
Bobcat assistant captain Jason Fabian then capped the team’s three-goal rally in the third period, rocketing a power play shot off the crossbar and in to give the ‘Cats the lead for good with 9:08 left in regulation.
“The power play was moving the puck well all night, we just couldn’t quite pull the trigger,” noted Fabian, who leads Bismarck with 18 goals and 27 assists. “But on that play, Casey [Klesinger] did a nice job of selling the shot and dragging the defense to the far side before dropping me a nice pass with a clear shooting lane.”
The Bobcat defense and forecheck stymied the Thunder’s attempts to even the score, keeping the puck tied up in the Albert Lea zone and in neutral ice, holding the Thunder to just 8 shots total in the third period.
Despite the sweep, the Bobcats came away from the weekend impressed with the new-look Thunder, who are within six points of the North Iowa Outlaws for the Central Division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
“That’s a really good team over there and they keep improving,” said Bobcat defenseman John Avino. “They’re skilled but they’re also very physical. In the corners, they may be the hardest team to play against in the division.”
Faragher stopped 26 Thunder shots to pick up his 17th win of the year, tying him for second in wins league-wide; Szczerba also made 26 saves but fell to 0-2-3 on the year.
The Bobcats (27-9-7, 61 pts) extended their division lead to 13 points over the Owatonna Express (22-15-4, 48 pts), who fell 4-1 Saturday at Alexandria; the Blizzard (18-16-4, 40 pts), meanwhile, trimmed Owatonna’s lead for second place to eight points.
The ‘Cats return to regular season action next Saturday when they pay a visit to the Runestone Center for a 7:00 PM contest against the hard-charging Blizzard.
Saturday’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 at 6:30 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.