BROOKINGS, SD–A power-play goal, a textbook two-on-one, and a brilliant night for Bobcat goaltender Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) blew the Bismarck Bobcats past the Brookings Blizzard 2-1 in Brookings Friday night.
Nelson shut down 35 Blizzard shots in powering the Bobcats (20-10-3) to their 20th win of the season, while Cullen Willox (Eagan, MN) and Matt Anders (Lafayette, CO) each earned their 20th point of the season, pushing Bismarck to eight players with 20 points.
The win kept the Bobcats within two points of first-place Austin, and moved them beyond Aberdeen by one for second place in the NAHL Central Division.
Willox scored on the power play, and earned every bit of the goal, for the game’s opening strike in the second. He took a cross-check from Russ Jordan well after a whistle, then pulled the puck around a defender and beat Blizzard goalie Connor Girard with a wrist shot at 12:52 of the period for a 1-0 Bobcat lead.
Anders assisted on the goal, and both notched their 20th points of the season. Evan Giesler also earned an assist, his 24th point.
The play of the night was a team-up effort between Joonas Huovinen (Oulu, Finland) and Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia). Huovinen played a loose puck behind the defense in the neutral zone, then dashed in toward the right circle, making a cross to Dzakhov in the opposite circle. Dzahkov then made the brilliant feed back to Huovinen, who finished just in front of the paint on the right side of the crease at 15:20 of the second the two-goal edge.
"I made the pass to Stan (Dzakhov) expecting he would take the shot. I was moving away when I got the pass back, and just made the quick shot," said Huovinen of the goal.
The momentum seemed solidly with the Bobcats, but, as in past games, Brookings would capitalize at the end of a period. Conor Anderle scooped control of an offensive zone draw, and beat Nelson at 19:50 of the second, splitting the lead at 2-1 after two periods.
Bismarck’s defense, and backstopper Nelson, made the lead stick in the third. Despite being outshot 15-8 in the frame, the Bobcats got quality stops from Nelson, and, on rare occasions where play did break down, had constant defensive help in front of their own crease to scoop out loose pucks. They withstood almost two minutes of the extra attacker at the end, and rarely had trouble, playing a good piece of that time between the blues for the win.
The Bobcats face Brookings again Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. to finish a weekend road trip. Pregame coverage will begin at 6:50 p.m. on Supertalk 1270 KLXX.