Bobcats Hold off Wings to Earn Sweep
BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats got a pair of third period goals to fend off a late rally from the Aberdeen Wings and secure a 3-1 win Saturday at the VFW Sports Center, completing a weekend sweep of their southern rivals.
It appeared that the Bobcats would grab a lead less than a minute into the game when Willie Brown walked out of the left wing corner and fired a low shot that beat Wings netminder Peter Thome five-hole, but the goal was waved off on incidental contact with Thome to keep the contest scoreless.
Just over two and a half minutes later, co-captain Cole Souto got the Cats on the board at 1-0 anyway: firing a one-timer from Brown on the power play off the left post and in with 16:24 to go in the first.
Despite three more power plays in the opening stanza, the Bobcats could not solve Thome again and took the 1-0 score into the first intermission.
Aberdeen had a chance to even the score early in the second as a loose puck rolled to Jake Leitner with Bobcat goalie Hunter Shepard hung up on the left post, but defenseman Garrett Nelson came diving across the goal crease to deny Leitner’s put-back and keep it 1-0 Bobcats.
That score would persist until 8:59 remained in the third period, when a Wings power play would prove pivotal—but not for the visitors—as Bobcat blueliner Patrik Demel capitalized on the momentary confusion amid an Aberdeen line change and made an aggressive poke that freed Aaron Herdt on a 50-foot breakaway that the Moorhead, Minn., native cashed in past Thome’s blocker for his third shorthanded goal of the year and a 2-0 advantage.
A fluky bounce put Aberdeen right back into the game, however, as a sharp-angle centering pass by Kevin Fitzgerald careened off of a Bobcat defender and in to cut the score to 2-1 with 5:18 remaining and halt Shepard’s streak without allowing a goal at 124:36.
With their lead reduced to one, the Bobcat defense went into lockdown, allowing just two shots in the final five-plus minutes.
Jared Pike put the finishing touches on the victory, grabbing an Oskars Batna block at his own blueline after the Wings pulled Thome and rifling home a 150-foot attempt into the empty net with 22 seconds to go for the final 3-1 margin.
Shepard turned in 20 stops on 21 shots to secure his 29th win of the season. Despite 20 saves of his own, Thome suffered his second straight regulation loss—the first time the North Dakota commit has taken consecutive regulation defeats since October 24 and November 6.
Thanks to Saturday’s win, coupled with Minot’s 3-2 loss at Brookings, the Bobcats (30-15-1, 61 pts) sit two points clear of the Minotauros (27-17-5, 59 pts) for first place in the Central Division with a Friday clash looming between the division’s top two teams at the VFW Sports Center.
Friday’s contest will also be the Cats’ seventh-annual St. Baldrick’s Night, where nine Bobcat players—along with head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie—will get their heads shaved to help raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s fight against childhood cancer. The team will also be wearing special edition jerseys for the event that will be auctioned off following the game, with the proceeds also going to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Tickets are now on sale for Friday’s showdown: fans can buy and print tickets online 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com, by clicking “Shop Now” on the team Facebook page or charge-by-phone at 222-3300.
Friday’s installment of the Battle of Highway 83 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.
Season tickets are still on sale for the 2015-16 season at a pro-rated price; if you want to beat the rush of over 40,000 fans for this year, now is the time! Call 222-3300 to reserve your seats today.
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