The Aberdeen Wings took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Central Division Finals after a dominating 4-1 victory over the Bismarck Bobcats Saturday night inside the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen.
With the win, the Wings have stayed perfect in postseason play at the Odde, winning all five matches played on their home ice.
Thomas Manty got the Wings on the board first at the 6:38 mark, skating between the circles and deflecting a rebound shot by Nathan Mann. It was Manty’s third postseason goal, with Mann picking up his second assist and Cullen Ferguson notching his fourth.
Later in the first period, Jakob Stender fed Natan Vertes, who skated in and sent one five-hole between the legs of Bismarck goaltender Ian Shane at the 18:40 mark. Vertes picked up his third postseason goal, while Stender recorded his third postseason assist. However, the Bobcats responded just 18 seconds later off a quick shot from Austin Schwartz to put Bismarck back within one. After outshooting the Bobcats 13-8, Aberdeen skated into the first intermission leading 2-1.
Each team fired a bevy of shots in the second period, but it was Kyle Gaffney who gave the Wings the cushion they were looking for just shy of the twelve minute mark. Trevor Russell took a shot from the blue line and Gaffney was there to capture the rebound for his second postseason goal. Overall, Aberdeen once again outshot Bismarck, taking 15 shots compared to twelve, and the teams headed into the final break with the Wings leading 3-1.
Aberdeen took a penalty at the 1:55 mark in the third, but Bismarck had 33 seconds left on the power play before also taking a penalty and moving to four-on-four hockey — and just 22 seconds later, Mann took a pass from Gaffney and put it in the upper left-hand corner to put the Wings up 4-1. That was his first postseason goal, while Gaffney notched his third postseason assist. Russell also picked up his third apple, his second of the night.
The Wings held the Bobcats at bay for the remaining 16:20, defending off a six-man advantage when Bismarck pulled Shane out from between the pipes with just less than three minutes remaining in regulation play. Even with the extra attacker, the Wings still managed to outshoot Bismarck in the final period, 14-10, overall taking 42 shots while holding the Bobcats to 30.
“Being sound defensively gives you a chance to win every night,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said after the game. “As a team, we have to continue to take pride in our defensive game.”
Shane stopped 38-42, while Wings goalie Jake Sibell was hot once again, denying 29-30. He improves to a 2.14 postseason goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. Bismarck went 0-2 on the power play, but the Bobcats also killed off each of their penalties, holding the league’s top power play unit to 0-5 on the night.
“Tonight, our players played a very disciplined game,” Langer said. “We capitalized on our opportunities and limited the opportunities against.”
The Wings will travel to the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck for a Friday 7:15 puck drop. If needed, the teams could face off for Game 4 in Bismarck, and a fifth game would be held back inside the Odde on Monday, June 14. The winner of the series will head to Blaine, MN to vie for the 2021 Robertson Cup.
Fans can watch Friday’s game using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen. Fans can also catch the game’s audio via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.