BISMARCK, N.D.–The Bismarck Bobcats entertained a sold-out crowd to a 4-1 victory over the Austin Bruins at the VFW Sports Center on Friday.
Logan Valkama, Vertti Jantunen, Patrick Johnson, and Calvin Hanson all scored in the win against the central division’s top team. Valkama started the scoring with a four-on-four goal just 2:24 into the game, and the Bobcats never trailed throughout the night.
The Bruins outshot the Bobcats 36-24, but Bismarck pounced on enough opportunities–which are never plentiful when facing Austin–to win the game. The best example of that came in the second period. Austin failed to clear the puck multiple times, which led to a prolonged Bismarck possession and the Bruins unable to change. The possession ended with Jantunen lifting a wrist shot to the top-left corner from the goal line for a 2-0 Bobcats lead.
“Great shift,” Layne Sedevie, Bobcats’ head coach, said. “I told the guys in the room, (Austin) makes some soft plays in their end. (Bruins’ head coach Steve Howard) is going to show that clip, and it is a clip that we will show for being persistent on pucks. We did a good job, we had them hemmed in.”
From that point forward, the Bobcats met adversity to go along with already facing the first-place team. Austin scored a power play goal just 20 seconds into the third period to cut the lead to 2-1. Minutes later, Erik Atchison received a major penalty and game misconduct for contacting Bruins goaltender Trent Wiemken with his stick. With Valkama already out of the game for a fight in the first period, Bismarck had to kill off a five-minute penalty–and the remainder of the game–with only ten forwards. They did.
“The third period was desperation, grit, a little character,” Sedevie said. “You have to find a way, right? We fought pretty much everything we could fight. (Austin) is licking their chops … We got momentum off of that, and you could feel it on the bench. It could have been deflating, but it was not.”
Along with the power play, Austin pulled their goaltender with two-and-a-half minutes remaining. Bismarck iced the game by scoring twice into the empty net.
“I do not want to say it was a must-win going into it,” Sedevie said. “But it turned into one, that is for sure. You can not fight during a stoppage, I understand that one, but I think Atchison’s was inadvertent. It was not intent to injure. He was trying to play the puck.”
Hunter Garvey continued his recent stretch of outstanding play with one of his best performances of the season. The 20-year-old from San Diego, Calif. made 35 saves on 36 shots to earn the victory. With the number-one goaltender position still up for grabs, Garvey once again delivered when called upon.
“I do not want to say (Garvey) was the reason we won the game tonight,” Sedevie said. “But it is pretty close. Hunter was phenomenal tonight.”
Garvey, who also defeated the Bruins on February 17 in Austin, has won six of his last seven starts. His 35 saves marked a season-high, but with the high workload he received with the North Iowa Bulls last year, that is nothing new for the veteran goalie.
With two points earned, the Bobcats are now three points behind second place in an extraordinarily tight central division playoff race. Bismarck hosts Austin for the final time this season on Saturday night at the VFW Sports Center.
“It would be a big weekend if we got four points against them,” Sedevie said. “They are a good hockey team. For the most part tonight, it was a pretty good hockey game. When we are playing well, we support the puck well, and execute our systems. That is something Austin does really well, too.”
Saturday night’s game starts at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are on sale at tickets.bismarckbobcats.com or by calling the office at 222-3300. Fans can also tune in live on SuperTalk 1270 and HockeyTV. After the game, stand by for a postgame jersey auction of all game-worn black away uniforms.