MINOT, ND–When Tyler Dunagan (Maple Grove, MN) scored at of the third period to put the Bobcats up two, one might have had the feeling Bismarck was in the clear for a weekend sweep of Minot.
One would have been wrong.
Jacob Howie scored just eight seconds later, starting a run of four straight Minotauro goals to finish the game and stun the Bobcats 6-4 at Maysa Arena in Minot Saturday night.
Three two-goal leads proved not to be safe, as the Bobcats (11-6-1) felt the loss both in the arena and in the NAHL Central Division standings. After climbing back to within five points of front-running Austin with their 6-1 win over Minot Friday night, Bismarck saw the tables completely turn Saturday. Austin shut out Brookings, and Aberdeen topped the Minnesota Wilderness, pushing the Bobcats to third place.
"These were two points we needed tonight," said a subdued Bobcat head coach Layne Sedevie after the game. "We needed to find a way to win, and instead, we found a way to lose."
Sedevie’s description was on point in describing the night, as the Bobcats committed costly turnovers that worked to undo two-score edges on three occasions.
Stanislav Dzakhov (Moscow, Russia) and Cullen Willox (Eagen, MN) delivered the first multiple-goal lead in the first. Dzakhov took a tight center from Dunagan and finished at 11:03 of the first, and Willox followed chipping a Tanner Salsberry (Plainfield, IL) pass beyond Minot goalie Brandon Wildung at 19:28, giving the Bobcats a 2-0 lead after one.
Willox capped a three-goal weekend at 15:41 of the second, slashing into the right circle to tally from a Seth Blair (Bismarck, ND) give, a goal that answered a Johnny Walker score from long range, rebuilding the two-goal edge at 3-1.
Minot, however, ended the second period with the momentum, as Colton Kramer scored on the power play against a Bobcat penalty kill that was not beaten in the last three games, cutting the edge to 3-2 after two. Dunagan’s goal midway through the third offered distance, but Sedevie was not comfortable.
"We just didn’t have any energy on the bench. We didn’t work well on the boards and we turned the puck over too much. When you do that, the other team will score goals," Sedevie explained.
Score goals is exactly what Minot did. Howie dashed between the circles off of a draw in the Bobcat zone just eight seconds after Dunagan’s goal, beating Bobcat netminder Aaron Nelson’s (Bismarck, ND) glove hand. Howie then assisted Cameron Rowat’s goal 2:24 later, tying the game, and bringing an abnormally subdued Minot crowd to a frenzy.
Minot native and 2013’s North Dakota Mister Hockey Jon Lizotte dealt out the back breaker. As Minot held the puck in on the end of a power play, Lizotte came open on the top of the right circle, and wristed in the eventual game winner at 17:06 of the third, earning the Minotauros their first lead of the night 5-4. Bismarck emptied the next with 44 seconds left, but Tyler Shipstad finished the scoring with six seconds left for the final 6-4 difference.
Bismarck stays on the road next Friday and Saturday, traveling to Aberdeen for a second-place battle with the Wings. The Bobcats are now 3-6-1 on the road, including four straight road losses. They return home Thanksgiving week for three home games, hosting Minot November 27th, and Austin the 29th and 30th.