Down by two goals nearly halfway through regulation play, the Aberdeen Wings faced an uphill battle Thursday night in Minot.
But after a four-goal barrage and an empty-netter in the final period, the Wings flew to a 5-3 win, taking down the Minotauros on the Pepsi Rink inside Maysa Arena.
The Wings took a penalty early in the game but turned away Minot’s chance with the extra attacker. Shortly after, a fight broke out between Nate Mann and Minot’s Ben Johnson that sent both players to the sidelines for five-and-ten penalties. Just over a minute later at the 6:53 mark, Minot got on the board first when Zach Simon got behind the defense to go 1-0 on Dominik Wasik. They had a similar chance minutes later that Wasik denied, which helped the Wings face a one-point deficit at the end of the first period.
That deficit went to two at the 6:59 mark in the second period when Dean Schwenninger also skated around the defense to sneak one past Wasik, giving the Minotauros the 2-0 lead.
But that’s when things turned around for Aberdeen.
At the 7:12 mark in the second, Aberdeen went on the power play for the first time in the game — and 41 seconds later, Kyle Gaffney took a shot from the high slot and Ronan Walsh was there to get a stick on it to tip it in for a power play goal. It was Walsh’s first goal as a Wing, while Gaffney grabbed his seventh assist and Patrick O’Connell got credit for his third.
Just over three minutes after their first penalty, the Minotauros found themselves on the penalty kill again — and the Wings once again took advantage of the extra attacker 41 seconds into the power play. That’s when Devon Carlstrom took a slap shot from the blue line and this time, Chase Davis was there with the redirect to tie the score at two apiece. It was Davis’ second goal on the year, while Carlstrom notched his second assist and Cade Neilson got his tenth.
Both teams stayed out of the penalty box for the remainder of the period, but Aberdeen wasn’t done scoring. At the 18:30 mark, the Wings had heavy traffic in front of Minot’s net and Jackson Yee kept poking at the puck until he got it past Minotauro goaltender Zach Sandy to give the Wings their first lead of the game. Yee netted his seventh goal on the year, while Will Gilson grabbed his third assist and Owen DuBois got his sixth.
With just nine seconds left in the period, O’Connell grabbed the puck and led a three-on-one attack, faked out the defender and fired a rocket past Sandy to put the Wings up 4-2. The eventual game-winner was his fourth on the season, while Carlstrom and Neilson each picked up another assist, racking up three and eleven, respectively.
It was a healthy response from the Wings in the middle stanza as they outshot Minot 17-11, with four of those shots finding the back of the net.
The Wings killed off another early period penalty in the third to keep their two-point lead. After a scoreless third, Minot pulled Sandy to give themselves the extra attacker, but Neilson found the empty net at the 18:40 mark to give Aberdeen the 5-2 lead, scoring his seventh goal on the year; Jacob Bosse got credit for his ninth assist.
Minot wasn’t done just yet as Braydon Beahm scored on another 1-0 attack just 13 seconds later to give his team a little life. They also pulled Sandy out from between the pipes again to give themselves the extra man, but a late Minot penalty sealed their fate and the Wings skated to the 5-3 win.
“We had some ‘constructive feedback’ between periods,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said after the game. “We started playing fast and more physically. That made a difference.”
The Wings were perfect on the penalty kill and nearly perfect on the power play, going 2-2 before the late Minot penalty with just 32 seconds remaining on the clock.
“The power play groups have been working hard and I’ve been feeling it was a matter of time before they clicked,” Jennings said. “It was great to see it happen. The penalty kill was solid, and both sides helped us build momentum.”
Wasik denied 28 of 31 shots in the win, while Sandy denied 29 of the 33 shots he faced. Overall, the Wings (8-7-0-0) outshot Minot (7-9-1-0) 34-31 and bump the Minotauros down in the Central Division standings with two games in hand.
Both teams get Friday off before returning to the Maysa for their rematch Saturday afternoon with a 4:05 p.m. puck drop. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login, or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all Wings away games.
“We’ll keep the boys busy tomorrow with some activities like pickle ball,” Jennings said. “Just trying to keep them moving. This is a really good team.”