BISMARCK, ND–The Bobcats are hoping to break back into the win column on two fronts when they split a home-and-home weekend with Aberdeen Friday and Saturday.
Bismarck will play host to the front-end of the weekend tomorrow night at the VFW Sports Center, then return the favor Saturday night at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen.
It’s been a run of streaks for the Bobcats over the past five weeks. After peeling off five wins in a row, including a sweep of first-place, Austin, Bismarck has suffered four straight losses, including being swept by Brookings last weekend.
The Bobcats are also looking to break a three-game losing streak to Aberdeen, all three of which were at home. The last meeting ended with a 2-1 shootout loss on January 10th. The three losses came after Bismarck took two straight from the Wings in Aberdeen.
Similarities in the series are striking. Every decision in this season’s series between the Wings and the Bobcats has been by a single goal. Aberdeen is 5-3-1 in the series, with 11 points, while the Bobcats are 4-3-2 with 10 points. Aberdeen is 27-18-4 overall (58 points), while the Bobcats are 28-17-4 (60 points).
And yet, that is where the similarities seem to end. The Wings have made their living on the power play, against the Bobcats and the rest of the division. They have 24 points with the man-advantage against Bismarck this season, and convert power plays at the second best rate (20.3%) in the NAHL.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, have dominated even-strength hockey, with a plus-minus rating of +13 against the Wings. Bismarck also produces more chances, averaging nearly 9.5 more shots per game than Aberdeen.
The wildcard, as always, is goaltending, and will likely be again this weekend. Aberdeen has two goaltenders among the league leaders in Chad Catt and Henry Dill. While Catt has been impressive in the series (2.21 goals against, .947 save percentage), Dill has been dominated by the Bobcats (3.99 goals against, .872 saves percentage)
Yet, Dill has had the hot hand for Aberdeen recently. He relieved Catt after Catt allowed three first-period goals against Minot on February sixth, and promptly shut out the Minotauros over two periods for the win. He then backstopped four straight starts into wins.
Dill held Austin to one goal in regulation last Friday, eventually taking a 2-1 overtime loss on the road. Catt started Saturday, and was beaten 4-2.
Bobcat starter Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) has mixed numbers compared to his seasonal average against Aberdeen. His 2.70 goals against average in the series is higher than his seasonal mark (2.24), but his .910 saves percentage is on par with his average (.919) this year. According to Bobcat head coach Layne Sedevie, Scott Albertoni (Arvada, CO) may see his fifth start as a Bobcat this weekend.
Huba Sekesi (Munich, Germany) leads a balanced offensive attack in the series with eight points on four goals and four assists. Six Bobcats have six points each against the Wings. He has five points in his last five games, with Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) and Evan Giesler (Naperville, IL) each adding four over the last five.
TJ Roo, an NAHL Rookie-of-the-Year candidate, has 11 points against Bismarck to lead the Wings, with five goals and six assists. He has skated to prominence during the second half, with 21 points in his last 24 games, landing as the only Wing in the 40-point category and 16th overall in NAHL scoring.
Gametime Friday night is slated for 7:15 p.m. Tickets are still available at 222-3300 or online at www.bismarckbobcats.com. Saturday will also see a 7:15 p.m. start in Aberdeen, and the game will be heard on Supertalk 1270 KLXX, and can be viewed on www.fasthockey.com.