Bobcats Rebound to Drop Minot 7-3
BISMARCK, ND – A heated, emotional season series finale in the NAHL’s hottest rivalry went the way of the Bismarck Bobcats, who fended off multiple rallies to spill the Minot Minotauros 7-3 at the VFW Sports Center Saturday.
It took the Bobcats just 14 seconds to take the lead as Matej Murin—on the night the Cats honored him with the Slovakian national anthem before the game—took a feed from newcomer Grant Johnson in the low slot and slammed a one-timer in under the glove of Minot netminder Lucas Murray for a fast 1-0 advantage.
Following a sequence of near-misses by the Bobcat offense, Minot battled back to tie the game at one in transition as Reid Stefanson cashed in a 3-on-2 rush with a low snap shot off the right post and in with 12:53 to go in the opening frame.
A 5-on-3 power play allowed the Cats to reclaim the lead at 2-1 with 5:28 on the clock in the first as Jordan Fralich—moments after Tobias Fladeby hit his second post of the period—followed up his own blocked shot to zip a snap shot through traffic that beat Murray glove side.
Before the period could end, the Bobcats padded the score to 3-1 as Luke Millen extended his goal streak to three consecutive games, weaving into the slot and working a backhander inside the right post with 1:41 remaining in the stanza.
As both sides traded penalties in the second, Minot wound up on a 4-on-3 power play that first-year winger Alex Adams converted at the 12:39 mark with an along-the-ice liner that beat Bobcat goalie Severi Isokangas five-hole to bring the visitors to within 3-2.
Just as they did in the first, the Bobcat power play had the answer: Fladeby restored the two-goal edge with 5:48 left in the second at 4-2, taking a needle-threading back door pass from Murin and blasting a one-timer home for his team-leading 23rd goal of the season.
Johnson, appearing in his first game with the Bobcats after leading Grand Forks Central High School to the North Dakota state title one week prior, notched his first career junior goal with 51 seconds left in the middle frame, sticking with a bouncing puck and ripping a close-range snap shot under the crossbar for a 5-2 Bobcat cushion after two.
In the third, Minot pushed hard in a comeback bid, launching 16 shots at Isokangas—breaking through with 5:07 left in regulation on Spencer Zweiner’s low snap shot through traffic to put the game in doubt at 5-3.
Just 27 seconds later, however, the Bobcats got some huge insurance when Jiei Halliday took a transition entry from Cooper Haar and rung a backhander over Murray’s glove and in for a 6-3 count.
“When Zweiner scored and made it 5-3, I had a flashback to Aberdeen last week,” noted Sedevie, whose team saw a three-goal lead evaporate late in the third before claiming a shootout victory against the Wings seven nights prior, “but Coop hit Jiei with a great pass and Jiei made a great shot to give us a huge response right when we needed it the most.”
Though the Minotauros had already clinched the Subway ND Cup the night before on points, Minot head coach Marty Murray continued to bid for the win, pulling his keeper with 3:00 to go. That gambit did not pay off: Haar put the finishing touches on the game with an empty-netter from neutral ice with 1:06 on the clock for the final 7-3 margin.
Isokangas finished with 31 saves to nail down his eighth victory in net. Murray finished with 17 stops to finish the season 2-3-2 against the Cats.
With the win, the Bobcats (23-25-2, 48 pts) kept pace with fourth-place Aberdeen (24-22-4, 52 pts) and third-place Brookings (25-19-5, 55 pts) in the Central Division playoff chase; Minot (32-15-4, 68 pts) remains two points away from clinching their fifth straight postseason berth.
Now the Bobcats head out on the road for their final 2016-17 regular season trip to Riverside Arena, where they will have a two-game weekend series against the Austin Bruins starting Friday at 7:05pm.
Friday’s road tilt will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270 AM, and worldwide on HockeyTV.com–the web television partner of the North American Hockey League–with pregame coverage starting at 6:35pm.
Pro-rated season tickets are now on sale for the Bobcats’ landmark platinum anniversary campaign fans can get more information or reserve their seats for all of Season Twenty now by calling 222-3300.
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Bobcats Rebound to Drop Minot 7-3