BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats rattled off four straight goals and got a goal and four assists from hometown hero Tyler Richter en route to a 6-3 win over the Austin Bruins Friday at the VFW Sports Center to claim a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five-games Central Division Finals.
Leading 2-1 after one, the Bobcats saw their lead vanish 2:18 into the second period when John Simonson skied a C.J. Smith rebound over Bobcat goalie Aaron Nelson to tie the game at two.
Just as he did in Game Four of the Division Semifinals, though, Bobcats assistant captain Castan Sommer came up with a quick answer for the top-seeded home side, taking a pass at the side of the net from Richter on the power play and banging it in past Bruins netminder Tyler Bruggeman to push the Cats ahead 3-2 a mere 77 seconds after Simonson’s equalizer.
“I’ll tell you, big time players make big time plays,” assessed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, “and Castan has scored two huge goals two games in a row to steal back momentum in critical situations. Plays like that are why he’s one of the real leaders on this team.”
It was Sommer’s second goal of the night.
Richter added another assist with 8:03 left in the second, finding a lane to the far post from behind the Bruins net to hit John Furgele for a point blank one-timer that beat Bruggeman glove-side to extend the lead to 4-2.
“There’s something really special about playing on a line with guys like Castan Sommer and Frank DeAugustine,” beamed Richter, who tallied his second multi-point night of the postseason Friday, “they are so good with the puck and hit me with so much time and space that I have a ton of room to operate. It was thanks to them that I was able to get some good passing lanes [Friday].”
DeAugustine became the fourth recipient of a Richter assist with 1:29 to go in the middle frame on an up-ice rush as Richter hit him as the trailer on a 3-on-2. DeAugustine fought off the back pressure from Bruins forward Austin Nelson and rolled a shot through Bruggeman’s legs to get the Bobcats out to a commanding 5-2 lead after two.
Ryan Callahan put a cap on the four-goal outburst just 2:13 into the third period, taking an entry pass on the rush from Nick Miglio and roofing a shot over Bruggeman’s blocker to push the lead out to 6-2 in favor of the Bobcats.
Simonson attempted to reignite the Bruins late, scoring on the rush when his 35-foot shot deflected off a Bobcat defender’s stick and over Nelson’s blocker to slice the Cats’ lead to 6-3 with 7:32 left in the game, but the Bruins would draw no closer.
Nelson made 28 saves to improve to 3-0 on the postseason, including a point-blank robbery of Jonathan Gehrt during the Cats’ second penalty kill of the night, moments before DeAugustine’s goal put the Bobcats in the driver’s seat.
Richter opened the scoring for the Bobcats just 5:12 into the game, redirecting a point shot on the power play by Furgele through Bruggeman’s legs to put the top seed out to a 1-0 lead.
The Bobcat power play finished the night 2-for-2.
Just 91 seconds later, the Bobcats made it 2-0 when DeAugustine used a Bruins turnover to feed Richter behind the net, who in turn found Sommer wide open in the low slot for a one-time finish to bring the crowd of 1,361 to its feet.
Austin, though, battled back quickly as John Kirby redirected a power play point shot by Jake Flynn through Nelson’s legs to make it 2-1 favoring the Bobcats through the end of the first.
The two teams will reconvene for Game Two of the Central Division Finals Saturday at the VFW Sports Center, with an opening puck drop set for 7:15 PM.
Saturday’s tilt 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.
Playoff tickets for the Bobcats’ second-round matchup with Austin are now on sale for Game Two April 21! Call the Bobcat Hockey office at (701) 222-3300 to reserve your seats or buy and print your playoff tickets online now at BismarckBobcats.com!