In their first game back from the holiday break, the Aberdeen Wings had to dig in to find a way to win.
After grabbing the game’s first goal Friday night, the visiting St. Cloud Norsemen got two themselves before the Wings found the final goal to send the game past regulation time. And after a scoreless overtime period, Aberdeen also grabbed a shootout goal to take a 3-2 win in front of 1,700 fans inside the Odde Ice Center.
The Wings started off hot. Despite failing to score on an early 5-on-3 power play, they applied serious pressure and delivered incredible defense, preventing the Norsemen from getting many scoring chances. At the 16:16 mark, Landon Parker got the Wings on the board when he found a loose puck at the top of the crease and turned and fired, and the puck took a slow bounce past the goal line for the 1-0 lead. Parker grabbed his eighth goal on the season, while Patrick O’Connell racked up his 16th assist and Nikolai Tishkevich notched his 12th.
The Wings took 14 shots in the opening period while holding St. Cloud to just three, and skated into the first break with the one-goal lead.
It was the Norsemen who started the second period off hot, closing the gap in shots on goal before the Wings found their footing and put more pressure on St. Cloud goaltender Tomas Bolo. But Kade Peterson got the equalizer at the 4:40 mark just one second after the Wings killed off a penalty. He scored again, this time just 28 seconds into a Norsemen power play, to give his team their only lead of the game at the 15:36 mark in the second.
St. Coud managed nine shots in the middle period while holding the Wings to seven. Aberdeen had to kill off three penalties while the Norsemen killed one, and the Wings headed into the final break with the one-goal deficit.
Aberdeen killed off their fourth penalty of the game before going on their fifth power play opportunity just over halfway through the final period. Parker skated the puck into the Norsemen zone and fed over to O’Connell, who passed across the crease to an open Kyle Contessa — he fired a one-timer from the circle and into the back of the net for a power play goal at the 12:32 mark to tie the game at two apiece. It was his seventh goal on the season, while O’Connell grabbed his second assist of the game, 17th overall, and Parker picked up his 13th assist on the season.
It was some gritty final minutes to close out the period, with each team looking for the game-winner — both teams were even denied a breakaway chance each, and the game remained tied at two when the final horn sounded. Aberdeen edged out St. Cloud in shots on goal 7-6 before the game went to an extra five minutes of overtime, where St. Cloud fired off four shots at Wings netminder Geno Pichora and Aberdeen didn’t get a shot off themselves. But Pichora came up big all four times despite some good chances, and the game’s fate went to a shootout.
Blake Perbix went first for the Norsemen, but Pichora denied his shot. Aberdeen’s first skater, Tishkevich, was also denied. Second shooters — St. Cloud’s Kade Peterson and Aberdeen’s Landon Parker — also failed to score, as did St. Cloud’s third shooter, Tyler Dysart. But Dylan Wegner came up big for Aberdeen, skating wide to the right before cutting back to deke and easily sliding the puck past the goal line for the shootout’s lone goal and the game-winner for the home team.
And with that, the Wings took their second win in a row and two coveted league points in a tightly-contested Central Division.
Aberdeen went 1-5 with the extra attacker while St. Cloud went 1-4, and the Wings outshot the Norsemen 29-22 overall. But Wings head coach Scott Langer said despite the win, he would like to see more out of his team. He was happy his squad outshot the visitors by eleven shots in the first and was proud of the comeback, but saw some weaknesses he knows they can fix.
“This was not our best effort. All of us in that locker room know that,” he said. “But the positive is we played it to the final buzzer and found a way to take the two points.”
And he’d like the team to settle in for more rounded effort in Saturday’s matchup.
“The first game back from break is always an interesting one,” he added. “I feel we all need to look in the mirror and bring the best version of ourselves to be a harder team to pay against.”
While Wegner earned the shootout game-winner and the game’s first star honors, Pichora kept his team in the game between the pipes, denying 20 of the 22 shots he faced in regulation and all three shootout chances. St. Cloud’s four shots during the overtime period were quality chances, but Pichora refused to let them by, and he proved why he’s a Big 10-committed goalie.
“Geno closed the door when we needed him the most,” Langer said. “He gave us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask of your goaltender.”
The two teams will face off inside the Odde Saturday for Round 2 on the final day of 2022, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and the puck hitting the ice at 7:15 p.m. Fans are encouraged to come early for New Year’s Eve party favors, and are also invited to the season’s first post-game party afterwards at Buffalo Wings & Rings.
Tickets are available 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.