Early and Often

Hot Start Paces Bobcats’ 5-1 Game One Win
BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats took a lead 44 seconds into the contest and never looked back Friday, cruising to a 5-1 win over the Austin Bruins in Game One of the Central Division Finals at the VFW Sports Center and claiming a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five-game series.
Solag Bakich lit the lamp in the opening minute of play, getting to the net on a Willie Brown entry pass in transition and shelfing a backhander over the glove of Bruins netminder Kristofer Carlson with 19:16 on the clock in the first period for a quick 1-0 edge.
A Bobcat power play would stretch the score to 2-0 with 6:33 left in the first as Alex Strand picked up his third playoff goal of 2016 by swinging in a Patrik Demel rebound from just outside the goal crease.
Winger Frankie Melton helped set up a major measure of insurance with 2:41 to go in the opening frame, creating a turnover behind the Austin net and dishing to a wide-open Parker Mismash for a back-door one-timer that the Edina, Minn., native buried to make it 3-0 in favor of the home side heading into the first intermission.
Just 72 seconds after the break, Aaron Herdt padded the lead to 4-0, using the Austin defense as a screen to snap a rising shot past the blocker of Carlson for his league-leading fourth postseason tally.
Despite a strong push in the second, the Bruins could not solve goalie Hunter Shepard, who made some of his biggest saves Friday on an Austin power play in the second to keep it a four-goal game after two.
In the third, Strand picked up his second of the night by tapping in a thread-the-needle backdoor pass from Garrett Nelson to cap the Cats’ five-goal surge at 5-0 with 14:29 left in regulation.
Strand’s tally ended the night of Carlson, who was replaced by backup Robbie Goor.
A rare mistake cost Shepard his shutout bid with 12:39 remaining: the second-year goalie attempted to clear a puck from behind the net but turned it over to Bruins forward Jacob Paganelli, who launched it into the wide-open cage to bring the Bruins back within four at 5-1.
Shepard would atone for the giveaway, however, making four highlight reel saves in the game’s last seven minutes to preserve the 5-1 victory.
In all, Shepard turned aside 25 of 26 shots sent his way to pick up his fourth win of the playoffs. Carlson suffered just his second defeat of the postseason on 13 saves; Goor stopped all three shots he faced but did not factor into the decision.
The two sides will reconvene Saturday at 7:15pm for Game Two of the Central Division Finals at the VFW Sports Center.
Tickets are on sale now for Saturday’s rematch: fans can buy and print their tickets 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com, by clicking “Shop Now” on the team Facebook page or charge-by-phone at 222-3300.
Saturday’s contest will be broadcast live locally on SuperTalk 1270, KLXX-AM, the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, and worldwide online at NAHL.FASTHockey.com—the official web television partner of the North American Hockey League—with pregame coverage starting at 6:45pm.

Tickets are now on sale for the Cats’ run in the 2016 Robertson Cup Playoffs and are already going fast! Lock in yours for the entire playoff run by signing up for 2016-17 season tickets today.