Bobcats Pull away to Claim Playoff Opener 5-2
BISMARCK, ND – Pushed to their limit through 40 minutes, the Bismarck Bobcats were able to create some separation in the third period en route to a 5-2 victory over the Brookings Blizzard at the VFW Sports Center to take a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-five-game Central Division Semifinals.
Clinging to a 3-2 lead after two and having been outshot 14-7 in the middle stanza, the Cats were able to find some breathing room 5:08 into the final frame when Solag Bakich redirected a point shot from Cole Souto though the legs of Brookings netminder Josh Kuemichel to stretch the score to 4-2.
Following Bakich’s insurance marker Bobcat defense went into lockdown: allowing just two shots to reach goalie Hunter Shepard over the ensuing 12 minutes of hockey.
When the Blizzard pulled Kuemichel to bring on an extra attacker, the Cats held Brookings at bay long enough for Willie Brown to wrench a 50-footer into the empty net for a 5-2 advantage with just 1:53 to go.
Though Brookings would pepper Shepard with four shots in the game’s final minute, none would find the back of the net as the Bobcats held on for the 5-2 final score.
Alex Strand got the scoring started for the Cats, making it 1-0 5:39 into the game on a 5-on-3 power play by slamming home an Aaron Herdt rebound that snuck through Kuemichel’s legs as he challenged to his left to make the initial stop.
Brookings drew even at 1-1 with 11:45 left in the first when Martan Yelle threaded a low shot through traffic that beat Shepard five-hole.
It looked like the game would stay tied heading into the first intermission until Aaron Herdt and Patrik Demel scored running power play goals in the final three minutes of the opening period to make it 3-1 Bobcats.
It took just 74 seconds for the Blizzard to dial up a response in the second, getting a power play goal from Mikael Hakkarainen that rang the right post and bounced in to make it a one-goal game at 3-2—a margin that would stand until the following frame.
Shepard secured his first career playoff win on 28 stops, while Kuemichel dropped his first postseason start despite 26 saves.
The two sides will reconvene for Game Two of the Central Division Semifinals Saturday at 7:15pm.
Tickets are now on sale for Saturday’s rematch: fans can buy and print online at BismarckBobcats.com, by clicking “Shop Now” on the team Facebook page or charge-by-phone during normal business hours at 222-3300.
Saturday’s game 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.
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