Kovar, Bobcats Punch Back with 5-2 Victory
AUSTIN, MN – In the first round of the 2013 Robertson Cup Playoffs, Century High School product Seth Blair grabbed headlines with eight points; Saturday Blair’s Patriot teammates Dan Kovar and Aaron Nelson took center stage in Game Two of the second round as the Bismarck Bobcats toppled the Austin Bruins 5-2.
Kovar registered a pair of goals while Nelson racked up 26 saves en route to his ninth career playoff win as the Cats evened the best-of-five-game Central Division Finals 1-1.
After being shut down in Friday’s 4-2 loss by Bruins goalie Nick Lehr, the Cats were able to get to Lehr first on Saturday when Bob Kinne collected a wayward Joe Giordano centering feed—intended for Evan Giesler—and blasted it home for a 1-0 Bobcat lead with 3:01 left in the first period.
Early in the second, it was Nelson who was called on to come up big in net: first the second-year netminder denied Nolan Kirley on a wide-open one-timer, kicking to his left into the splits to rob a point-blank opportunity 2:56 into the frame; 3:34 later, Nelson gloved a Kirley blast on a 3-on-2 rush to keep the score 1-0.
“When Aaron made that glove save, I knew he was settled in back there,” assessed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, a former collegiate and professional goaltender himself. “He was seeing the puck well and really using his biggest asset—his recovery speed—to make some big-time saves for us.”
Despite Nelson’s best efforts, the Bruins were able to equalize at one with 7:57 to go in the second when blueliner Cody Dixon pinballed a rising shot through traffic and in.
Needing an answer, the Bobcats struck back 1:57 after Dixon’s goal on Kovar’s first career postseason marker as the third-year defender threaded a low shot through a Filip Starzynski screen to push the visitors back in front by a count of 2-1.
Matt Pohlkamp doubled the lead to two at 3-1 with 1:47 left in the second stanza, gloving down a sky-high stretch pass by Levi Blom for a 2-on-1 rush that the Bowling Green recruit cashed in with a rocket shot over Lehr’s glove for his second goal of the playoffs.
“Danny’s goal was we try and emphasize in practice: a low shot with good traffic,” explained Sedevie, “but Pohlkamp’s goal was just a snipe. There’s a reason they call him ‘Shooter.’”
Coming into the final frame, Bruins head coach Chris Tok lifted Lehr in favor of rookie phenom Jason Pawloski.
Austin drew back within one just 97 seconds into the third as Ladislav Zikmund popped in a Brandon Wahlin rebound for a 3-2 score.
Zikmund’s goal gave the Bruins a spurt of momentum but Nelson, coupled with a concerted shotblocking effort by the Bobcat skaters, was able to slow the game down and stem the tide.
A holding penalty assessed to Cory Chapman with 3:34 left in regulation gave Austin a window to pull even again, but the Bobcat penalty kill was able to get a clear on the ensuing faceoff and hold the Bruins at bay in the neutral zone for a solid 20 seconds.
When the Bruins were finally able to enter the Bobcat zone, Matt Anders was able to steal the puck and slip it out to center to Kinne, who rushed ahead 1-on-2 toward the Bruin blue line. Realizing he was outnumbered with backcheckers gaining on him, the Bemidji State commit pulled up and dropped the puck all the way back into the Bobcat zone to Kovar.
Wanting to burn as much ‘PK’ time as possible, Kovar waited for pressure to arrive from the Bruins before launching a shot from ten feet inside his own blueline toward the Austin net. The length-of-the-ice slap shot dipped hard as it approached Pawloski and snuck under his glove for a 170-foot short-handed goal and a critical 4-2 spread with 2:19 to go in the game.
“Bob made a great play to run some clock down and had the presence of mind to get it back down to our end to run even more time off,” explained Kovar, who scored the Cats’ only short-handed goal of the regular season on March 15. “I waited as long as I could and just made sure I got it all the way down.”
Not long after Kovar’s second of the night, Tok pulled Pawloski in favor of the extra attacker, but the Bobcat penalty kill blocked four shots to keep the Bruins at bay.
Bobcat captain Adam Knochenmus put a cap on the scoring, netting his first of the playoffs with 55 seconds left on a slow-roller into the vacated cage for the final margin of 5-2.
Lehr suffered the loss, his first since March 22, on 19 saves. Pawloski did not factor into the decision, registering seven stops in his second playoff appearance.
Tied at one game apiece, the Central Division Finals shift to the VFW Sports Center for Games Three and Four, scheduled for 7:15 PM starts on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Tickets are on sale for Cats’ final two home dates right now; fans can buy and print online 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com or charge by phone at 222-3300.
Friday’s pivotal Game Three 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 PM.