The Aberdeen Wings found themselves in an interesting position Saturday night in Austin, MN.
Leading 5-0 over the Austin Bruins just over two minutes into the second period, the Wings saw that lead dwindle down to just a one-goal cushion. Austin battled until the very end, but Aberdeen, who improve to 29-1-0-1 on the season, held off for the 5-4 win to sweep the weekend.
After a slow start Friday, the Wings hoped to come out of the gate strong in Saturday’s matchup — and Spencer Schneider did just that, getting the Wings on the board just 35 seconds into the game off an assist from Clayton Cosentino and Jordan Randall. Aberdeen went on the power play shortly after and Payton Matsui gave the Wings another goal at the 3:24 mark, assisted by Cosentino, who picked up his league-leading 30th assist, and Trevor Russell, who picked up his 18th, which leads all NAHL defensemen.
The Wings added one more goal in the first period when Cade Neilson went top shelf at the 16:24 mark off a slick pass from Marshall Walker. With that, the Wings headed into the first break leading 3-0. Austin outshot the Wings ten to six, but Aberdeen found success on half of those shots.
The Bruins picked up two quick penalties to start the second period and Aberdeen took advantage of the extra attackers when Nico deVita scored with just over a minute ticked away on the clock. He was assisted on the power play goal by Thomas Manty, who notched his 15th apple, and Neilson, who snagged his 19th of the season.
Austin got one man back on the ice but couldn’t kill the penalty before Matsui got his second goal of the night at the 2:14 mark, snagging the Wings’ third power play goal of the game. Matsui’s goal was his 18th on the season, assisted by deVita, who picked up his 16th apple.
Just over four minutes later, Austin got on board with a power play goal from Connor Mylymok at the 6:25 mark in the second to put the score at 5-1. After a defensive battle on both sides of the puck, the teams headed into the final break with the Wings holding onto the three-point lead.
“Tonight it was imperative we get out to an early lead and make them chase the game,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said. “We were really good offensively in the first and second periods.”
Austin responded heavily in the third, however, clawing their way back within one. Mylomok got his second goal of the night at the 5:30 mark to put the score at 5-2. And less than two minutes later, Ben Dexheimer brought Austin within two at the 7:06 mark. The Bruins decided to pull goalie Hudson Hodges to give themselves the extra attacker and found success when Peter Jacobs scored at the 17:37 mark.
With the one-point lead, the Wings went into full shutdown mode, preventing another extra-man attack with another Bruins empty net. The Wings kept the 5-4 lead when the final whistle blew, earning two coveted league points in the process.
“We played hard defensively,” Langer said. “The third period, they had some puck luck. But a win’s a win, especially on the road.”
Austin did manage to do something few other teams have done so far this season, and that’s outshoot the Wings, taking 29 compared to Aberdeen’s 22. Aberdeen went 3-6 on the power play, holding Austin, now 9-16-2-2, to just 1-7.
Tyler Shea started the game for the Bruins, stopping 4-9 before being replaced by Hodges, who was perfect between the pipes, stopping all 13 shots sent his way. Wings newcomer Zakari Brice snagged the win in his first NAHL game, stopping 25 of 29 en route to the victory.
“Zak did a great job,” Langer said. “He is an ’03 playing in his first game, and on the road. He earned that win.”
Aberdeen will head back to the Odde Ice Center next weekend to host Austin for a two-game series on March 5-6. Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. $10 general admission tickets are also available at any of the four C-Xpress locations in Aberdeen, with additional purchase. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, with the puck hitting the ice at 7:15 p.m. Listen to the game’s audio on Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.