The Aberdeen Wings came out strong in front of a packed crowed at the Odde Ice Center Friday night but couldn’t build enough momentum to find the win, falling 4-1 against the Bismarck Bobcats.
It took just over 18 minutes for the scoring to start, but Alexander Gullichsen got the Wings on the board first. Jacob Vockler skated the puck into the Bismarck zone and fired a shot from the circle — that banged off the back wall, and Gullichsen was there to grab the rebound and backhand it into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead at the 18:03 mark. Gullichsen grabbed his third goal on the season, while Vockler nabbed his third assist and Aiden Moser picked up his first.
The Wings edged out Bismarck in shots on goal 10-7 and killed two penalties in the opening period. But Bismarck came firing back in the second and never looked back.
Evan Hunter got the equalizer just 50 seconds into the middle stanza, and Eddie Shepler got the go-ahead and eventual game-winner at the 8:49 mark. Each team killed off a penalty while Bismarck took nine shots on goal and held the Wings to just five.
The Bobcats scored again at the 5:09 mark in the third when Drew Holt snuck one past Wings netminder Florian Wade, and Landon Fandel got Bismarck’s final goal at the 14:35 during a four-on-three power play.
While the Wings only gave up one power play goal, penalties plagued them the entire game as the gave the Bobcats seven chances. And that’s something Wings head coach Steve Jennings would like to see changed.
“There were too many times where we had to go and find a way to keep them off the board and we’re not building offensive zone time and not building momentum because we’re trying to shut down a power play,” he said. “That reduces the guys who are on the ice, and makes things harder to do. We’ve got to be our own best friends and tonight we weren’t.”
He was happy with the special teams unit holding the Bobcats to 1-7 but said there’s also things that could be improved upon.
“There’s parts of it that we need to get better at,” he explained. “I thought they entered the zone too easily but we found a way to do it. I told the guys when you take seven penalties, at some point people will solve the problem. We need to be better. We can’t have key guys taking multiple penalties in a game and put ourselves in a position to win.”
Jennings praised the efforts of his young goaltender, an affiliate player who is in town for the weekend while Cole Moore couldn’t be on the Wings bench. Wade denied 23 of the 27 shots he faced — and some of the saves were highlight-worthy efforts.
“We had an outstanding performance by a kid who’s an affiliate, who came in to help us out when we have someone who’s away, and our goalie goes down and he just stood right in and stood tall,” he said. “I thought he was really good. He’s someone who came in not expecting to play and got the nod during warmups and he answered the bell.”
The Wings (2-3-0-0) and the Bobcats (1-3-1-0) will face off again Saturday night inside the Odde for the final game of the weekend series. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck hits the ice at 7:15 p.m.
“We watched that game progressively slip through our fingers more and more,” Jennings said of Friday’s final. “We kind of authored it with some untimely penalties. The message to the team ahead of Saturday is that we have to have a response. I thought we put ourselves in a good spot early in this game and we should have been building off of that and we deflated ourselves. We can’t do that. When we start to get up we need to build positive momentum.”
Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com, or at the door. $10 general admission tickets are also available at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase. Fans are also invited to join the team after the game for the Danger Von Dempsey’s Post Game Skate.