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Willox Stars as Bobcats Rally past Wings
BISMARCK, ND – Playing in his first game since an early November leg injury sidelined him for three and a half weeks, Bismarck Bobcats co-captain Cullen Willox forced overtime and notched the game-winning goal as the Cats came back to edge the Aberdeen Wings 3-2 in a shootout Friday at the VFW Sports Center.
Trailing by one goal after two periods for the fifth straight game, Willox pulled the home side even at 2-2 just 3:53 into the third firing a shot in transition that deflected off an Aberdeen defender and in over the glove of Wings goalie Chad Catt for the veteran’s ninth goal of the year.
Momentum swung back and forth in the final frame, with the Wings pressing for a go-ahead goal on a third-period power play, but only managing one shot that was turned aside by Bobcat netminder Alex Bitsakis.
Then it was the Bobcats who nearly grabbed the lead in the closing minute of regulation as Willox created opportunities for himself, Tanner Salsberry and Garrett Nelson, but Catt held firm and the game went to overtime.
Each team had a chance to win it in bonus hockey: Bitsakis rebuked Wings captain Kyle Haak on a short 1-on-0 with a glove save; Matt Perry missed Evan Giesler on a back-door pass on a 2-on-0 moments later, bringing about a shootout.
In that shootout, Bitsakis stopped Haak, forced Bjorn Sigurdarsson wide and then allowed a backhand goal to Tanner Okeson in the first three rounds. The Bobcat offense, however, picked their goaltender up with three straight goals by Logan Rivard, Willox and Giesler.
Aberdeen’s top goal-scorer, Michael Soucier, tested Bitsakis’ left side in the fourth round but the Montreal, Quebec, native issued another glove denial to deliver the Cats a 3-2 victory.
It was the Wings, though, who took an early advantage, wrapping goals from Okeson and rookie Colin Raver around Alex Strand’s fourth of the year for the Bobcats, seizing a 2-1 lead after the first period.
After allowing Raver’s tally with 1:51 to go in the opening stanza, Bitsakis stopped 18 straight shots—making 23 saves overall in 65 minutes—and then three of four shooters in the shootout to improve to 11-5-1 on the season. Catt slipped to 5-6-1 despite turning in 28 stops.
Now the Bobcats head north for a 7:35pm Saturday meeting with the in-state rival Minot Minotauros at Maysa Arena.
Live coverage of Saturday’s clash with the first-place Tauros will begin at 7:05pm 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!