For the second game in a row, the Aberdeen Wings found themselves playing from behind.
But just like Wednesday’s season opener, the Wings picked up the pieces and had a strong second and third period, skating to a 5-2 win over the Odessa Jackalopes in the second game of the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN.
They improve to 2-0-0-0 on the season with two games left to play in the long weekend.
Odessa got on the board very quickly when Dayne Hoyord tipped the puck in just 23 seconds into the game. After coincidental penalties at the 5:38 mark, Aberdeen found themselves on the penalty kill three consecutive times in the first period, playing solid defense and refusing to let the Jackalopes open up the scoring. With less than two minutes to play in the period, Ronan Walsh took a pass deep in Odessa’s zone and skated in and around a defender and through traffic for a backhand shot into the back of the net at the 18:14 mark.
“They had a great tip on the first goal and we had to build off that,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said. “Penalties slowed us down in building momentum but the guys stuck with it.”
The Wings killed another penalty to start the second period, then went on the power play three minutes later. Patrick O’Connell took a shot from the perimeter through traffic and the save was made, but Nikolai Tishkevich found the bouncing rebound and dove in the air, swatting into the back of the net at the 9:42 mark to give the Wings the 2-1 lead. Tishkevich got his second goal of the season, also his second power play goal on the year, while Landry Schmuck and O’Connell each grabbed an assist.
The Jackalopes found themselves in penalty trouble in the middle stanza but the Wings couldn’t capitalize again. They tied things up once again later in the period when Ryan Mansfield got behind the Wings defense at the 17:54 mark.
But the third period was all Aberdeen.
The two teams remained tied at two for the majority of the period before the Wings took the lead back at the 15:18 mark. That’s when Anthony Galante skated into Odessa’s zone and centered a pass — and Barron Stibbe came flying in to poke the puck into the back of the net to retake the lead. The eventual game-winner was Stibbe’s first wearing the Wings sweater, while Galante grabbed his first assist and Schmuck picked up his third on the season.
With just under two minutes on the clock and trailing by one, Odessa pulled netminder Kameron Ragon from between the pipes — but it didn’t take long for the Wings to increase their lead. The Jackalopes got a single shot off with the extra attacker before Zachary Reim got the rebound deep in the Wings’ zone and fired a perfect shot into the empty net for his first goal of the year and the 4-2 lead.
Odessa kept Ragon on the bench to keep the man-advantage and applied the pressure on the Wings, but O’Connell poked the puck free and Alexander Gullichsen fired from center ice into the back of the net for his second goal in as many games and the 5-2 lead to seal the deal.
“We talked about starting properly and also staying out of the box,” Jennings said. “When it didn’t work out, I was glad to see the resilience of the group to stick to the process and find a way.”
The Wings remained perfect on the penalty kill for the second game in a row, killing off six penalties Thursday after killing six more in Wednesday’s season opener and staying at a solid 100 percent kill rate over the two games so far this season.
“It is early in the season and honestly, we haven’ spent too much time dialing it in,” Jennings said. “But I’m very happy with how the group has responded and is taking pride in their work.”
The power play unit was strong, too, putting up a goal in four chances. And Wings goaltender Cole Moore came up big in several key moments, using his size to turn away 27 of the 29 shots he faced in the contest.
The Wings have to rest quickly before returning to the ice on Friday afternoon at 2:15 p.m. when they take on Maryland for Game 3 of the Showcase. The Black Bears (3-1-0-0) had a big Thursday win and also carry some momentum into the contest. But Jennings is pleased with how his squad has performed so far.
“It’s a quick turnaround but I do feel like the group is gelling,” he said. “We need to remember the positives and stick with what is working.”
Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login or catch the action at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all Wings away games. Fans can also catch the audio broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.