Friday, marked the third playoff appearance for the Aberdeen Wings in just the franchise’s fifth season.
Their opponent: the NAHL Central Division regular season champion Austin Bruins.
In his pre-game interview with the Wings Network’s Jay Kleinknecht, Coach Francis Anzalone said, “it’s gonna be physical, and that’s what the playoffs are all about.” The interview was heard on 94.1 The Rock and ESPNAberdeen.com, the official radio homes of the Aberdeen Wings.
As for the game, the physical was there, but so was the scoring.
In the first period, the Aberdeen Wings would strike first with a goal from #17 Will Hammer (F-St. Cloud, MN) off a beautiful pass from #21 Bjorn Sigurdarson (F-Reykjavik, Iceland) and #23 Jackson Graalum (F-Fargo, ND). The goal would set the tone for the Aberdeen Wings, as at the 5:00 mark #22 Colin Raver (F-Bartlett, IL) would score a goal thanks to assists from #19 Colin O’Neill (F-Odenton, MD) and #25 Tucker DeYoung (F-Lake Bluff, IL). Just 30 seconds later, the Bruins would try to halt the attack with a goal of their own making it 2-1. But with 3:00 minutes left in the first period, Wings forward #17 Will Hammer would fire a shot from the point scoring his 2nd goal of the evening with an assist to #21 Bjorn Sigurdarson. The Wings would take the momentum and the 3-1 lead into the locker room.
Coming out for the 2nd period, the Wings had a 3-1 lead and a little “jam” hitting the ice. But the Austin Bruins had a game plan to end that, and end it quickly. Immediately, the Bruins got physical but the Wings tried to hold the zone. At the 3:22 mark, the Bruins’ Uglem would get a puck to sneak past Wings goaltender #30 Luke Kania (G-Chicago, IL). That would start the shift in momentum. At the 6:49 mark, the Bruins would tie the game 3-3 with a goal from Trevor Boyd. At 10:53, the Bruins would gain the lead 4-3 with a goal from Luke Dietsch on the power play. With three unanswered goals, the Wings tried to gain some ground but would turn it over to Austin as Jade Miller would score making it 5-3. At the end of the 2nd period, the Bruins would change the game leading 5-3.
After two high-scoring periods, what could the third have in store? Both teams seemed to have even strengths going back and forth, but on the power play the Wings would score on a traffic shot from #2 Ryan Cook (D-Lancaster, NY) with an assist to #16 Kyle Haak (F-Okemos, MI). The 5-4 score would hold for 4 minutes, as the Bruins would find the back of the net again making it 6-4. Then things got nasty. After a couple of hard plays, the physical game would return. Gloves would drop at 12:17 with Wings forward #23 Jackson Graalum delivering a couple of good blows with both players going to the ice. The Bruins, not happy about the Wings getting momentum from the fight would have back to back penalties including a ‘head contact’ and ‘checking from behind’. But the Wings would not be able to capitalize on the power plays. Just as the penalty ended however, Wings forward #17 Will Hammer would score again, for his third goal of the night and a playoff hat-trick. The assist credited to #19 Colin O’Neill. That would make the score 6-5. At the 18:37 mark, Bruins defenseman Ian Scheid would gather a puck on the offensive blue line, skate in and score giving the Bruins a 7-5 lead. After an empty netter from the Bruins made it 8-5, the game would end.
13 goals scored on a combined 57 shots in one playoff game is enough to open eyes. The Wings would fall 8-5. Game two of the first round of the NAHL Central Division playoffs is this Saturday, April 4th. You can hear the games on 94.1 The Rock, ESPNAberdeen.com, or watch/listen on FASTHockey.com.
BUTLER-CAT HIT OF THE GAME
Aberdeen – #23 Jackson Graalum (F-Fargo, ND)
SD WHEATGROWERS STARS OF THE GAME
3rd Star – Aberdeen #19 Colin O’Neill (F-Odenton, MD)
2nd Star – Aberdeen #21 Bjorn Sigurdarson (F-Reykjavik, Iceland)
1st Star – Aberdeen #17 Will Hammer (F-St. Cloud, MN)