OWATONNA, MN – The Bismarck Bobcats battled back from a late 2-1 deficit and prevailed in a shootout, downing the Owatonna Express 3-2 Friday at the Four Season Centre.
Holding a 1-0 lead after two periods, the Bobcats watched their slim advantage turn into a one-goal deficit in a three-and-a-half minute span courtesy of Express forward Nick Widing.
Widing first forced the tie, roofing a John Haeg back-door feed past Bobcats goaltender Jake Williams 7:31 into the third—halting Williams’ shutout streak at 136:35.
The Owatonna left-winger gave the Express their first—and only—lead of the night 3:16 later, taking another transition feed—this time from Chris Bournazos—and shooting it over Williams’ blocker for a 2-1 Owatonna edge.
Bobcats forward Dominic Panetta tied the game with 6:00 left, beaming a wrist shot over Express netminder Matt Hemingway’s glove on the power play.
The two sides deadlocked through the last six minutes of regulation and all five minutes of overtime, forcing the decisive shootout.
Neither the Bobcats nor Express scored in the first two rounds of the shootout, but Bobcat forward Ryan Jacobson broke the scoreless shootout tie, lifting a backhander over Hemingway’s leg pad for a 1-0 Bismarck edge.
“[Assistant coach] Layne [Sedevie] kind of drew that one up for me,” said Jacobson. “He told me that he was waiting on the shot so I had to get him moving and then pick a side to shoot at. He gave me backhand, so that’s where I went.”
After Owatonna captain Cory Thorson missed the net on his shootout chance, Bobcat captain Casey Kleisinger switched it back up on Hemingway, powering a low snap shot through his legs to put the Bobcats up 2-0 in the shootout.
“After Ryan’s goal, I think Hemingway was looking for another deke,” said Kleisinger, “so Coach [Byron] Pool told me to pick my head up and shoot. He didn’t go down right away when I got close so I was able to get it through the five-hole.”
Following Kleisinger’s goal, Express defenseman Jake Sloat rang his wrist shot off the post, sealing the Bobcats’ 3-2 win on enemy ice.
It marked the first time in three tries that the Bobcats were able to top the Express in the shootout after falling twice in the five-round affair at the Four Seasons Centre earlier this year.
Williams said his strategy was simple against the offensively talented Express shooters.
“I wanted to come out and challenge them and take away the shot,” said Williams. “I forced them to try and make a good move, and they ended up with a lot of missed shots and posts hit.”
The Bobcats took the early lead in the game on Sam Rendle’s 8th goal of the year when the Bemidji State recruit wristed a low point shot off an Owatonna defender and through Hemingway’s legs for the 1-0 edge they would enjoy until almost halfway through the third period.
Williams finished with 32 saves in addition to keeping his net clean in the shootout, improving the Montreal native to 2-0-0 since coming to the Bobcats from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in December.
Hemingway made 29 saves but dropped to 3-2-1 since joining the Express at Christmas time and 0-1-1 against the Bobcats.
For the ‘Cats, special teams were the biggest factor in regulation—scoring on both power play chances they enjoyed while holding the Express scoreless on their two extra-man situations.
The win extends the Bobcats’ (24-9-7, 55 pts) lead in the Central to nine points over the Express (21-13-4, 46 pts). Friday’s game marked the Bobcats’ last regular-season visit to the Four Seasons Centre, where they finished 3-1-2 in six games.
The Bobcats will wrap up their two-game roadtrip in Mason City, Iowa, on Saturday with a 7:30 PM contest against the North Iowa Outlaws.
The 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 7:00 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.