Highly Offensive

Pike’s Hat Trick Paces Cats to Weekend Split

BISMARCK, ND – Jared Pike recorded the team’s first hat trick of the year and the Bismarck Bobcats scored six unanswered goals to blast by the Minnesota Wilderness 8-4 Saturday at the VFW Sports Center.

With the Cats trailing 4-2 after the first, co-captain Evan Giesler kick-started the offense 43 seconds into the middle frame, outmaneuvering Wilderness goalie Ryan Anderson off a Willie Brown entry pass and backhanding home his 25th goal of the year to cut Minnesota’s lead to one.

Rookie defender Garrett Nelson followed up 1:34 later, belting a low shot through a Matt Perry screen for his first NAHL goal and a 4-4 tie.

Off the ensuing faceoff, Minnesota bid to reclaim the lead as Ian Mansfield found himself all alone with a Janis Jaks rebound on the rush, but Bobcat goalie Hunter Shepard flew to his right to kick out the second chance and keep the game squared at four.

Blueliner Tony German pushed the Bobcats ahead for good on the power play with 5:39 left in the frame, searing a one-timer from Aaron Herdt inside the left post to bring the 1,323 fans at the VFW Sports Center to their feet.

With just over three minutes left in the eventful frame, Dan Litchke shook free on a shorthanded breakaway but Shepard rebuked the scoring chance, kicking away a low shot on his glove side.

Pike capitalized on the momentum with his second of the night on a 4-on-4, slamming in a Tanner Salsberry rebound with 2:00 left in the middle stanza to post the home side to a 6-4 lead after two periods.

Just 40 seconds into the third, Pike finished off the hat trick, steering into the high slot on and ripping a rising shot past Anderson’s glove with one second left on the Cats’ sixth power play to extend the advantage to 7-4.

Giesler put the finishing touches on the six-goal outburst, bursting through the Wilderness defense with Anderson pulled and rolling the puck into the empty net for the Bobcats’ season-high eighth goal and the final 8-4 margin.

“We had to have that comeback,” asserted Pike, who leapt into fourth on the team in goals with 12, “you could say we were desperate. Thankfully we found the urgency and intensity we needed to come back and get a win we needed at home.”

It was the Wilderness who scored first Saturday as defenseman Bradley Johnson slapped home a Darian Romanko rebound 3:07 into the game to push the visitors ahead 1-0 for the second straight night.

Cole Souto dialed up a response for the Cats 25 seconds later, threading a low shot through traffic and in through Anderson’s legs to knot the game right back up at one.

Pike followed up 52 seconds after Souto’s equalizer in transition, cashing in a 2-on-1 with Oskars Batna to push the Bobcats in front at 2-1.

That lead would last all of 45 seconds, as Wilderness defender Wayland Williams leveled the score at two when the former Amarillo Bull floated a 50-footer that deflected off a Bobcat defender and in over Shepard’s glove.

Minnesota reclaimed the advantage with 7:56 left in the first on the power play when Brett Heikkila bashed home an Aaron Miller rebound for the Wilderness’ fourth power play goal of the weekend.

Another special teams goal for the Wilderness pushed the score to 4-2 when Dan Litchke fired in a Romanko rebound on the penalty kill after Shepard had denied a shorthanded breakaway with 4:11 to go in the first.

Shepard bounced back from a rough opening frame with 13 straight stops—17 total—to secure his 11th win of the season.

“Rebounds were causing problems in the first, and that was a big adjustment I needed to make at intermission,” admitted Shepard, who snapped a personal two-game skid Saturday, “and when I got that save [on Mansfield] early in the second everything kind of clicked into place.”

Anderson finished with 16 stops but suffered his seventh loss of the season and third courtesy of the black and gold.

The Bobcats will continue their seven-game home stand when they open a two-game series with the Kenai River Brown Bears Friday at 7:15pm.

Tickets are on sale right now for the Brown Bears’ only visit to the capital: fans can buy and print tickets 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com or charge by phone at 222-3300.

Live coverage of Friday’s weekend opener will begin at 6:45pm 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.

Though the 2014-15 season is has entered the home stretch, there is still time to order pro-rated season tickets for the rest of the year; fans who want to lock in their seats for the final home games should call the Bobcat office at 222-3300 today!