Dakota (Chasing the) Cup

BISMARCK, ND – Heated regular-season rivals, the Bismarck Bobcats and Aberdeen Wings are set for their first-ever postseason showdown as the two sides open the Central Division Semifinals with Game One Friday at the VFW Sports Center.

With five franchise single-season records in tow, including the mark for wins and overall record, the Bobcats are looking for a similarly strong showing in the playoffs but know that regular season success never guarantees advancement in the postseason.

“We’re proud of our accomplishments in the regular season,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, who now has a regular-season record of 84-37-7 in two-plus years behind the bench, “but none of that means anything right now. All that matters is who is the best team for the next five games.

“Maybe this summer we’ll be able to look back and feel good about our regular season, but right now we have one focus: the Aberdeen Wings.”

The Bobcats are in their fourth straight postseason while the Wings are making their playoff debut in just their second season as a franchise.

Following a pair of home wins to snap a season-high three-game losing streak, the Bobcats enter the postseason with a renewed sense of confidence.

“After we got swept in Austin, you could just tell by the way guys prepared and carried themselves that we were going to have a good weekend,” explained Bobcats captain and third-year veteran Bryce Schmitt, one of two holdovers—along with Tyler Richter—from the Cats’ 2010 national title run. “We played well, we played hard and we made plays. If we can put together that kind of effort again, we’re going to get off on the right foot in the playoffs.”

The Bobcats-Wings rivalry played one of its fiercest games last Saturday to close out the regular season, with the Bobcats claiming a 4-2 victory in front of almost 1,400 fans, comprising rabid contingents from both sides that gave the contest a playoff intensity.

“It was awesome,” gushed current Bobcat and former Wing Filip Starzynski. “As players we love playing in atmospheres like that, so we’re looking forward to more of that when the playoffs start this weekend.”

After a season series in 2010-11 that came down to the last meeting of the season to determine a winner, Bobcats finished the 12-game 2011-12 Titan Machinery Dakota Cup with a 10-1-1 record against the Wings, but just a 2-1-1 record in their last four games between the two sides.

Despite the eight-win regular-season disparity, the Bobcats are far from overlooking their first round opponent.

“Last year, we were the team that went 2-10 against the guys we played in the first round,” noted Sedevie, referencing his team’s dramatic 3-games-to-2 Central Division Semifinal win in the 2011 playoffs over the heavily favored and top-seeded Alexandria Blizzard. “We’ve been on both sides of the 1-vs-4 in the past two years, so we know that anything can happen. With the guys in our locker room who saw what a four seed did last year, there’s nobody in there overlooking Aberdeen.”

The Bobcats certainly cannot overlook the talent the Wings bring to the table as second-year veteran and NHL Central Scouting stalwart Cory Ward finished atop the Central Division in scoring with 63 points on 35 goals and 28 assists, edging out Bobcats assistant captain Castan Sommer, who finished second in the Central with 59 points on 32 goals and 27 assists.

Though Ward tallied 15 points during the Dakota Cup—including both of Aberdeen’s game-winning goals—perhaps no one player had a greater impact on the Bobcats-Wings regular season clashes than Steve Obarzanek. The former Albert Lea Thunder poured in 11 goals and an assist despite only playing in nine of the 12 meetings thanks to a late-season injury that held him out of the lineup until the final two weeks of the campaign.

While Ward and Obarzanek were the only Wings in double-figures in the Dakota Cup, the Bobcats featured six players with 10 or more points against Aberdeen, led by Dan Zawacki’s 15 score sheet entries on seven goals and eight assists. Frank DeAugustine (14), Shane Omdahl (12), Bryce Anderson (12), Sommer (11) and Adam Knochenmus (10) also crested double digits.

The curtain rises on the 2012 Robertson Cup Playoffs with a 7:15 PM puck drop for Game One Friday night at the VFW Sports Center. Game Two will follow Saturday, also at 7:15.

Friday’s playoff lid-lifter will be broadcast live locally in HD on KXMB CBS-12, on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide on the official internet television partner of the NAHL, FASTHockey, at http://nahl.fasthockey.com. Pregame coverage gets under way at 6:45.

Playoff tickets for the Bobcats’ first-round matchup with Aberdeen are now on sale for Game One April 6 and Game Two April 7! Call the Bobcat Hockey office at (701) 222-3300 to reserve your seats or buy and print your playoff tickets online now at BismarckBobcats.com!