MINOT, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats held off a special teams surge by the Minot Minotauros, tipping their closest geographic rivals 4-3 in the shootout Saturday to complete a two-game road weekend sweep.
“It wasn’t easy, but our guys battled through a tough game and found a way to get two points,” said Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, “it seems that Minot always gives us their best shot, and we had to dig deep to walk away with a ‘W.’”
Nick Miglio opened the scoring for the Bobcats 4:25 into the game, ripping a transition snap shot over the glove of Tauros goalie Jake Hebda, off the crossbar and in for a quick 1-0 lead for the visitors.
Minot native Bryce Schmitt padded the Cats’ lead with 5:00 left in the first, taking an entry feed from Miglio and firing a cross-body shot that beat Hebda below the blocker to push the lead to 2-0.
“It was nice getting back on a line with Bryce,” noted Miglio, who was put back with his former linemate along with rookie Nick Turbitt for Saturday’s game in the face of a groin injury to Adam Knochenmus and the departure of Filip Starzynski to Team Poland for the 2012 World Junior Championships, “we have a good chemistry from the start of the year and Turbitt was really good on the puck and helped us make things happen.”
The Tauros muscled their way back in the game thanks to a resurgent power play, starting when Kelvin Walz ripped a wrister from the faceoff dot past a screened-out Tommy Burke, chopping the Cats’ lead to 2-1 with 6:23 left in the second.
Newcomer Austin Hoff evened the score at 2-2 3:06 later—also on the power play—finding space in front of Burke’s net and swatting home a loose puck for Minot’s second straight goal on the man advantage.
Donald Olivieri, kicked out of Friday’s game for a check from behind on Minot’s Buster Hebda, pushed the Bobcats back in front with a power play blast of his own, stealing the puck after nearly committing a turnover and dekeing out two Minot forwards and ripping a rising slapshot home 6:01 into the third for a 3-2 edge.
“Coach came in the locker room after the second and asked us if we were going to win,” recalled Olivieri, who is fourth on the team with nine goals, “I told him, ‘yeah, and I’m gonna score in the third.’ I actually screwed up a little bit but got lucky when they overcommitted to the point so I got a little room to shoot once I got by them.”
Minot’s power play would not be denied, however, as Jack McFarlane redirected a point shot from Joe Hockert over Burke to tie the game 3-3 with 4:45 left in regulation.
Neither side was able to break the deadlock in the last four-plus minutes or in overtime, forcing the decisive shootout.
With the Bobcats trailing 1-0 in the shootout after two rounds, Olivieri, Castan Sommer and Shane Omdahl scored back-to-back-to-back goals and Burke denied Minot’s Jadin Martin on Minot’s final shot to deliver the Cats a 4-3 shootout victory.
“All three of us kept our heads up and found the space Hebda was giving us,” explained Sommer, who is tied with Dan Zawacki for the team lead in points with 29. “The most important thing was getting the puck on net. So many times we don’t score in the shootout because we miss the net, so it was big that we hit the net at all.”
Burke made 21 saves to pick up his 14th win of 2011-12 while Hebda suffered his first overtime loss of the year despite 47 saves.
The Bobcats and Tauros will wrap up their three-week, five-game series next Saturday with a 7:15 PM bout at the VFW Sports Center.
Saturday’s showdown 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.
Season tickets are now on sale for the 2011-12 season—and going fast! Call the Bobcat Hockey office at (701) 222-3300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on reserving a pro-rated package for this season!