Offensive Resurgence Carries Bobcats past Blizzard
BISMARCK, ND – The Bismarck Bobcats snapped a season-high four-game losing streak Saturday with their best offensive performance of 2014-15, pouring in seven goals en route to a 7-3 home victory over the Brookings Blizzard at the VFW Sports Center.
It took no time for the Bobcats to kick off the scoring as rookie Jared Pike blazed home his first of the season just two minutes into the game, spinning and firing home a cross-ice pass from Nick Wallace for a fast 1-0 lead for the home side.
Brookings was able to get back to level footing at 1-1 with 7:54 to go in the first as top-scoring center Beau Michaud found room on a short-handed 2-on-2 rush and zipped a rising wrist shot under the cross bar.
Momentum swung back to the Bobcats 3:07 after Michaud’s equalizer as blueliner Joe Tyran sped behind the Blizzard defense and threaded a back-door pass to Oskars Batna that the Latvian winger batted past Brookings goalie Eric Hancock to boost the Cats to a 2-1 lead after one.
Bobcat goalie Alex Bitsakis kept the hosts ahead in the second with critical stops on Jimmy Morgan and Oscar Odd that brought the crowd of 1,270 to its feet.
Near the halfway mark of the middle stanza, the Bobcat forecheck took over: gobbling up over seven minutes of possession inside the Blizzard zone, eventually resulting in a high-sticking minor on Brookings’ Joe Nathe in the final minute of the frame.
“We’ve been working on that forecheck for quite a while now, and it’s starting to stick,” assessed Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. “[Saturday]’s results were good, but we need to keep working hard to make it more consistent game-to-game.”
Third-year forward Evan Giesler made the visitors pay for Nathe’s transgression with five seconds left in the second, tapping in a tic-tac-toe passing play from Cullen Willox and Tony German to left the Cats to a 3-1 advantage heading into the second intermission.
With 6:12 gone in the third, Jared Spooner triggered an offensive avalanche for the Bobcats, collecting a crossing pass from J.M. Piotrowski and dancing into space before beating Hancock low for his third goal of the weekend and a 4-1 edge.
Viktor Lindell gave Brookings a glimmer of hope with 11:45 left in the final frame, cutting the Bobcat lead to 4-2 on a transition strike.
That ray of light was extinguished just 2:04 later as Willox drew in the Blizzard defense before freeing Batna on a cross-ice pass that the 6-foot-4 rookie converted on a low backhander to restore the three-goal cushion at 5-2.
A mere 126 seconds later Giesler put the game out of reach at 6-2 when Harrison Aide sprung the Air Force commit on a breakaway, which he cashed in through Hancock’s five-hole for his second of the night.
Never giving up, Brookings head coach Dan Daikawa pulled Hancock with 3:26 left in regulation and that gamble was rewarded when Zach Glienke collected his ninth goal of the year on the power play to make it 6-3 with 1:32 to go.
Hancock was pulled again as the Blizzard were awarded another late power play, but this time it would be the Cats who would score, as German sent a sky-high wrister that landed dead-center in the vacated net for the shorthanded empty-netter and the final 7-3 margin.
Bitsakis bounced back from a tough Thursday outing, making 20 saves to improve to 6-4-0. Hancock submitted 25 stops but could not replicate his game-stealing performance from the previous night, suffering his fourth loss of the year.
After splitting a home-and-home this weekend, the Bobcats and Blizzard will open another home-and-home weekend Friday when Brookings returns to the VFW Sports Center for a 7:15pm rematch.
Tickets for Friday’s home date are now on sale; fans can buy and print tickets 24 hours a day at BismarckBobcats.com or charge-by-phone at 222-3300.
Before the Bobcats square off with the Blizzard again, fans will have a chance to meet and greet the team Tuesday from 5:00 to 8:00pm at Buffalo Wild Wings on 3rd Street in Bismarck. Larry “LarDawg” LeBlanc will be live on 103.3 FM US Country throughout the event.
Live coverage of Friday’s inter-Dakota dustup will begin at 6:45pm 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.
Though the 2014-15 season is now under way, there is still time to order season tickets for the year; fans who want to lock in their seats for the entire campaign should call the Bobcat office at 222-3300 today!