ABERDEEN, SD – The Bismarck Bobcats bounced back from a frustrating Game Two effort, clamping down on the talented Aberdeen Wings as goalie Aaron Nelson posted 17 saves for a 3-0 shutout Friday at Odde Ice Center, boosting the Cats to a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five-game Central Division Semifinal series.
Following a scoreless first period in which the teams deadlocked at seven shots a side, Nick Miglio put the Bobcats on the board 4:22 into the second, grabbing a centering pass from Adam Knochenmus in space and lifting a backhander over Wings goalie Marcus Zelzer’s glove to post the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
“I was coming in off the bench, and Adam made a nice spin to get away from the defense and hit me with some room to work,” explained Miglio, whose Friday tally stood as his first career playoff goal. “We’d been hitting their ‘D’ all night and wore them down to the point that they couldn’t recover to the front of the net when I got that pass.”
Tyler Richter extended the lead to 2-0 with 2:14 left in the second, redirecting a slap-pass from Dan Kovar past an out-stretched Zelzer, making it a two-goal contest after two periods.
In the third period Knochenmus pushed it to three, banging in his own rebound moments after a Dan Zawacki penalty expired for a 3-0 score 5:55 into the third.
One game after giving up three power play goals in a two-goal loss, the Bobcat penalty kill starred on Friday, negating all eight Aberdeen power plays including three straight kills in the third period.
“Our guys did an incredible jobs blocking shots and passes tonight,” credited Nelson, who got the shutout in his first-ever playoff appearance, “Jeremy O’Keefe, Dan Kovar, Bryce Schmitt, Tyler Richter, Buster Hebda… everybody on the ‘PK’ laid their bodies on the line and kept them from getting to the net.
“There were a couple times [Cory] Ward had looks where I don’t know if I would’ve been able to recover and the guys never even let it get to me.”
Aberdeen top guns Ward and Steve Obarzanek were credited with seven combined shots, but had many more stymied by the Bobcat defense.
The two forwards, who have scored five of the Wings’ seven goals in the series, drew special attention from the Cats Friday.
“We had to take away time and space from Ward and Obarzanek, and our guys were up to the challenge,” noted Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “Now the trick will be to do it again Saturday.”
The Bobcats will have a chance to close out the Wings Saturday in Game Four, scheduled for a 7:15 PM start at Odde Ice Center. If no series victor is decided Saturday, Game Five will be at the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck Monday, also at 7:15.
Saturday’s elimination game will be broadcast locally 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. Fans can watch Friday’s game—and all away contests—live at Reza’s Pitch at Third and Front in Bismarck, the official away game home of Bobcat Hockey.