BLAINE, MN – The Bismarck Bobcats twice rallied from one-goal deficits to the highly touted US National Team but saw their hopes for a come-from-behind overtime season-opening victory dashed by a Team USA power play goal with 1:26 remaining in the extra period Wednesday.
Ryan Haggerty powered a transition wrist shot past Bobcat goalie Ryan Massa to lift the Nationals to the win.
After the game, Bobcat Head Coach Byron Pool praised his team’s effort in pushing Team USA to their limit.
“Our guys battled all night and I think that’s important,” said Pool. “That’s one of the biggest things we’ve built our team’s identity on. If you want to play at this level, you’ve got to go out and compete. To a man, right down the lineup, they came out and played really well and I can’t ask for anything more.”
The game featured back-and-forth scoring, with neither team ever holding an edge of more than one goal before the other team would even the score.
The Bobcats opened the scoring at the 8:36 mark of the first period when veteran forward Casey Kleisinger stuffed a loose rebound behind USA netminder Matt McNeely for a 1-0 Bismarck lead.
Team USA evened the score six minutes later as Cole Bardreau scored his first of two goals, redirecting a Matt Van Voorhis entry feed home and sending the game into the first intermission at 1-1.
2:31 into the second period, the Nationals claimed their first lead of the game with a Tyler Biggs wrister that beat Massa in traffic.
Bobcat forward Dominic Panetta tied things back up with 2:50 to go in the middle frame, stuffing a Kleisinger centering pass through McNeely’s legs for a 2-2 tie.
The Bobcats were forced to rally again in the third when Bardreau tallied his second of the night, wristing a shot past Massa off a broken play with 7:54 left in regulation for a 3-2 Nationals lead.
Third-year defenseman Devin Schmitt gave the Bobcats the lift they needed with 2:01 on the clock, rocketing a drop pass from Monte French over McNeely’s glove to force overtime.
“Our execution is coming along; it’s getting there,” said Pool. “Tonight was the first time we got to dress our full lineup and I think you could see the difference [from the preseason]. Our guys played well and I think that if we don’t lose Nick Jensen less than five minutes in, we have a different outcome tonight.”
Jensen was ejected 2:13 into the first after a collision with USA defenseman Alex Privitera on an icing play left Privitera face-down on the ice.
Massa finished the night with 21 saves and, despite seeing his record fall to 0-0-1, drew high praise from his head coach.
“Ryan really gave us a chance to win [Wednesday],” said Pool. “I thought we had a little bit of a slow start and Ryan made some big stops early on to keep us in it.”
McNeely turned aside 32 Bobcat shots—facing 28 attempts after the first period, where he only fielded seven shots.
Elsewhere in the Central, the North Iowa Outlaws provided the Central Division its only win of the day with a 3-2 shootout win over Wichita Falls. In early action, the Alexandria Blizzard were blanked 6-0 by Wenatchee and the Owatonna Express fell 4-2 to the expansion Janesville Jets. In Wednesday’s late game, the three-time defending Robertson Cup champion St. Louis Bandits rolled past the Albert Lea Thunder 9-4.
The overtime loss gives the Bobcats (0-0-1, 1 pt) sole possession of third place in the Central Division after the season opener behind Albert Lea (1-1-0, 2 pts) and North Iowa (1-0-0, 2 pts). Owatonna (0-2-0, 0 pts) and Alexandria (0-1-0, 0 pts) are tied for fourth.
The Bobcats continue their NAHL Sherwood Showcase schedule Thursday with a 4:30 PM start against the Texas Tornado.
The game will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide at BismarckBobcats.com via B2 Networks. The pregame show will begin at 4:00 PM.
You won\’t want to miss any of the games this season, so order your Season Tickets, Family Packs and Group Night’s today by calling the Bobcat Hockey Office at 701-222-3300 or by e-mailing the office for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.