BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats scored three straight goals and cruised to win their second-to-last game of the 2009-10 regular season—a 4-1 victory over the visiting Albert Lea Thunder Friday at the VFW Sports Center in a preview of the 2010 Central Division Semifinals.
The win was the Bobcats’ 38th of the season and extended their divisional advantage over idle Owatonna to a season-high 16 points.
Dominic Panetta opened the scoring 5:32 into the game on the power play when he redirected a Casey Kleisinger shot through the legs of Thunder netminder Joe Rogers for his 22nd goal of the year.
“I’ve been struggling a bit lately, I’d say,” admitted Panetta, the Bobcats’ third-leading scorer with 48 points, “so being able to get back into a nice groove with my linemates was really important with the playoffs right around the corner.”
Albert Lea forced a tie early in the second when Thunder forward Anthony Iaquinto rocketed a transition snap shot past Bobcat goalie Jake Williams just 4:11 into the middle frame.
The Bobcats, however, battled back to take a 2-1 lead when a Ryan Jacobson centering pass careened off a Thunder defender and into the Albert Lea net with 9:47 left in the second.
From there, the ‘Cats hit the after burners, as Bryce Schmitt notched his fourth goal of the season ringing a bar-down shot in transition past Rogers with 12:14 left in regulation to boost the Bobcat lead to 3-1.
Panetta capped the scoring with 10:20 to go, popping home his second power play tally of the night off a Tim Serratore pass for the final margin of 4-1.
He had his bid for a hat trick waved off minutes later when the referees ruled that he batted a puck past Rogers with his glove, negating the potential three-goal feat for Panetta.
Jake Williams made 20 saves to pick up his 10th win as a Bobcat and 12th win overall on the year.
Peppered with shots from the outset, Rogers turned aside 44 Bismarck attempts but suffered his 18th defeat of 2009-10.
The Bobcats will wrap up the regular season Saturday with a 7:15 PM rematch with the Thunder at the VFW Sports Center.
Saturday’s season finale 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 6:45 PM.
The Bobcats and Thunder will meet to open the Central Division Semifinals on Friday, April 2nd; Game One will get underway at 7:15 PM at the VFW Sports Center.
Playoff tickets for the 2010 Robertson Cup Playoffs are available now for the Bobcats’ first-round series against the Thunder! You can reserve your postseason seats by calling the Bobcat Hockey Office at 701-222-3300 or by e-mailing the office for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.