Tight Squeeze

Jan 31, 2012

BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats fought off a two-goal rally from the Alexandria Blizzard and survived a penalty kill in overtime to upend the second-place Blizzard 3-2 in the shootout Wednesday at the VFW Sports Center.

With the win, the Bobcats (35-6-1, 71 pts) extend their Central Division lead over the Blizzard (26-11-2, 55 pts) to 16 points while pulling within two points of league-leading Amarillo (33-3-7, 73 pts).

Following a scoreless first period that saw Alexandria netminder Jameson Shortreed and Bobcats goalie Tommy Burke combine for 21 saves, including a number of point-blank stops by Shortreed.

It was the Bobcats, though, who would break through first in the second period as Bryce Anderson streaked in from the blue line to pop a Donald Olivieri rebound past Shortreed for a 1-0 lead for the home side 3:21 into the middle frame.

“I saw Alexandria’s defense collapse to Donald, leaving me in a bit of a soft area,” recalled Anderson, the Bobcats’ first round entry draft pick in 2011, “so I went hard to the net and he put a perfect shot on to create a rebound for me.”

Olivieri followed Anderson’s strike with his fourth tally in three games, pinballing a puck through traffic that rolled past Shortreed, doubling the Cats’ lead to 2-0 with 12:43 to go in the second.

A power play miscue by the Bobcats, however, pushed Alexandria back into the game as Craig Lindegard collected an Olivieri shot blocked by Reid Sturos and raced free on a breakaway that the Hallock, Minn., native cashed in at the 1:55 mark of the second stanza to chop the lead to 2-1.

When Olivieri was whistled for a controversial interference penalty late in the third, Alexandria seized the opportunity to equalize as Seth Ronsberg beamed a rising snap shot over Burke to force a 2-2 tie with 4:33 left in regulation.

Neither side could edge ahead in the final four-plus minutes of regulation and each team squandered a power play in overtime, bringing the game to a decisive shootout.

Alexandria’s first three shooters posted two goals—from Ronsberg and Nick D’Avolio—to tie the shootout at two, but Burke was able to settle down to keep the Blizzard at two goals the rest of the way.

“The most important thing is to have confidence in yourself,” explained Burke, who pulled with one of league-leader Tony Kujava with his 23rd win of the year Wednesday. “Ronsberg and D’Avolio are really good players and they made some nice moves, so I couldn’t worry about it. I just had to stay patient against [Hayden] Trupp and [Jordan] Krebsbach.”

Burke’s stops on Trupp and Krebsbach set the stage for former Blizzard forward Adam Knochenmus, who entered the night 3-for-3 in shootout opportunities, to play the hero against his former mates.

Knochenmus said he used the third-round goal notched by his linemate Dan Zawacki as a blueprint for his fifth-round chance.

“When ‘Z’ had his shot, Shortreed tried to poke it and Dan read it for a nice goal,” credited Knochenmus, acquired in late September in exchange for Charlie Aus and Rodney LaLonde. “So when I came out I was aware of the poke and when he reached out I went for the shot over his blocker.”

His aim was true, and Knochenmus’ fourth shootout goal lifted the Bobcats to their 35th win of the season, bringing the Wednesday crowd at the VFW Sports Center to its feet as his teammates spilled off the bench to congratulate him.

Shortreed took the loss, his second after regulation, despite 36 saves. Burke made 27 stops for the win.

The Bobcats get two days off before turning around for a 7:15 PM Saturday road contest against the rival Aberdeen Wings at Odde Ice Center.

Saturday’s installment of the Titan Machinery Dakota Cup 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 PM. Fans can watch the game—and all away contests—live at Reza’s Pitch at Third and Front in Bismarck, the official away game home of Bobcat Hockey.

Season tickets are still available for the second half of the 2011-12 season—and going fast! Call the Bobcat Hockey office at (701) 222-3300 or email gobobcathockey@aol.com for more information on reserving a pro-rated package for the rest of the season!