BISMARCK, N.D.–Another must-win, another flair for the dramatic.
Attila Lippai scored with 3:56 remaining in the third period to lift the Bismarck Bobcats to a 3-2 win over the North Iowa Bulls at the VFW Sports Center on Friday. It is the Bobcats’ fifth straight victory, all against the Bulls, their longest streak of the season.
The 3-2 lead was Bismarck’s only lead of the game. North Iowa led 1-0 in the first and 2-1 in the second on a pair of power play goals. Brandon Reller and Patrick Johnson both scored equalizing goals in the second period. Lippai’s seeing-eye wrist shot from the right wing was the only tally in the third.
“I thought our third period was by far our best period as far as being clean on zone exits and entries,” head coach Layne Sedevie said. “We had some really good chances (in the second). Cal’s breakaway. Pietila rings the bar. Could have made it 3-2 … You can say all the negative stuff, and obviously there is positive stuff, but we find ways to win games. We did not shoot ourselves in the foot. Fought a lot of adversity again and found a way to get two points.”
Having been swept in two consecutive weekends, North Iowa put forth their strongest effort of the series. The Bobcats’ defense responded by allowing zero goals at 5-on-5. In this series, the D has surrendered just five even-strength goals in five games.
“We struggled until the week after Christmas,” Sedevie said. “Then, we have definitely been getting that in the right direction. We have spent quite some time on it … Our commitment to the back side of the puck and defending as a group has come a long way.”
Linards Lipskis made 31 saves on 33 shots faced to continue his dominant stretch of play. The Latvian has allowed just nine goals on the active five-game winning streak and owns a .937 save percentage.
The emotions of a hard-fought battle showed in the form of a mob scene on the bench after Lippai’s go-ahead goal and a sold-out crowd letting every ounce of energy out. If there were any doubts about the Bobcats playing as a team and supporting one another, Friday’s game quashed them.
“You can not have one guy (Linards Lipskis) think that he is going to do all the work,” Sedevie said. “The best part about this game is getting that feeling in that locker room. It takes a group of guys. If you have never had that feeling or been a part of it, there is nothing like it. They have one more game together, and that is the only thing that is guaranteed.”
All that the Bobcats can control is the outcome of Saturday’s finale against the Bulls. A Bismarck win, coupled with an Aberdeen regulation loss, gets the Bobcats into the playoffs. Anything less results in a late surge falling short.
“I just told the group we have one game guaranteed together,” Sedevie said. “The group in that locker room will not be together ever again. That is something special to embrace in and play for one another for 60 minutes. Leave it all in the rink, and that has to be our M.O. tomorrow.”
The Bismarck Bobcats are home on Saturday, April 15 against the North Iowa Bulls in their regular season finale. Puck drop is 7:15 p.m.. Fans can purchase tickets at tickets.bismarckbobcats.com or by calling the office at 222-3300.