Facing a two-goal deficit heading into the third period Friday night, the Aberdeen Wings grabbed four goals in the final stanza to skate to a 4-2 win over the Austin Bruins inside Riverside Arena in Austin.
The game was their fifth consecutive matchup after the two teams finished the regular season with back-to-back weekends. And while the teams certainly aren’t strangers to each other, Aberdeen found a way to dig themselves out of a two-goal hole to take the big win in Game One of the Central Division semifinals.
Similar to previous matchups this season, the opening period felt like a track meet, with each team moving up and down the ice trying to get on the board first. After a Wings penalty late in the first, the Bruins got the go-ahead goal they were looking for when Anthony Menghini scored on the power play to put his team up 1-0 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the period. The Bruins outshot the Wings 11-7 with Wings goaltender Anton Castro making some highlight-worthy saves, keeping his team within one.
Aberdeen picked up offensively and buckled down defensively in the middle period, taking 13 shots on goal while allowing Austin just two. However, one of those shots found the back of the net when Alex Trombley scored at the 16-minute mark to give his team the two-goal lead.
But the third period belonged solely to Aberdeen.
The comeback started when Anthony Galante grabbed a puck out of the air in the Bruins’ zone and fed it over to Seamus Campbell, who fired from the circle and over the shoulder Austin netminder Klayton Knapp at the 2:14 mark. Campbell got his first post-season goal, while Galante picked up his first post-season assist.
Just over a minute later, the Wings went on the power play for the second time in the game — and just over a minute into the man-advantage, Campbell took a pass near the center line, skated in and around two defenders and fired the puck from inside the circle once again for his second goal of the game. Devon Carlstrom picked up his first post-season assist, and the Wings tied the game at two apiece less than five minutes into the period.
The track-meet-style game continued as the period progressed, with the Wings firing off eight total shots and limiting the Bruins to just three chances. With less than two minutes on the clock, Wings captain Kyle Gaffney won a face-off in the Bruins’ zone and made a diving pass to the the middle, where Dominic Schimizzi was there to grab the puck and put his team up by one on a backhand shot with 1:19 remaining on the clock.
Two seconds after the center-ice face-off, Cade Neilson was called for a cross-checking penalty that gave the Bruins their third power play chance of the game, and they pulled Knapp from between the pipes to give themselves the 6-on-4 advantage — but Gaffney blocked a shot and the puck cycled around the net to an awaiting Jacob Bosse. He fired the puck from the Wings’ blue line and into Austin’s net for a shorthanded, empty-net goal at the 19:01 mark. Bosse got his first post-season points, while Gaffney and Kevin MacKay each grabbed an assist.
Leading 4-2 and still on the penalty kill, the Wings packed in the defense and blocked several shots, and when the final horn sounded took an important road win to lead the series 1-0-0.
After giving up a power play goal late in the opening period, the Wings essentially dominated puck possession for the remainder of the game, outshooting the Bruins 21-5 between the second and third periods. Castro denied 14 of the 16 total shots he faced, while Knapp turned away 24-27 overall.
“I think what we saw was our guys trusting each other and doing their jobs,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said about his team’s grit. “When we needed help in the first, Anton stepped up. Other guys did the same as it went down toward the end.”
But he noted that an all-around style of play was what put his team over the edge.
“The team committed to the defensive structure, but also our forecheck limited their possession,” he added. “And we blocked a lot of shots.”
Special teams was also strong for Aberdeen, going 1-2 on the power play while holding the Bruins to 1-3. Campbell and Schimizzi each picked up two points in the contest.
The teams will face each other for their sixth consecutive matchup Saturday night with a 7:05 scheduled puck drop inside Riverside Arena once again. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login, or catch the action at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for Wings away games. Fans can listen to the game’s audio on Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock or by downloading The Rock app.
Tickets are also on sale now for next Friday’s home matchup against the Bruins for Game Three; get your seats at tickets.AberdeenWings.com, or get $10 general admission tickets at any C-Express in Aberdeen (with additional purchase) starting Monday. Stay tuned to AberdeenWings.com or follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for gameday updates.
As Jennings and company look for a weekend road sweep, he’d like the same level of commitment that he saw in Friday’s win.
“They stuck to the game plan and didn’t give in to adversity,” he said. “It was a very positive vibe as they saw what we worked on working in our favor.”