Stepping onto the ice to start the third period Friday night, the Aberdeen Wings were facing a two-goal deficit.
However, it took less than a half a period for them to find the back of the net five times, surging to a 5-2 victory over the Austin Bruins at Riverside Arena in Austin, MN.
The Wings were outshot in the first period 6-8, but the score remained tied at zero heading into the first intermission.
The Bruins were the first to get on the board just shy of two minutes into the second off a goal from Reginald Millette. And less than a minute later, just three seconds into the power play, Austin’s Peter Jacobs scored a fast one off the face off, giving the Bruins the 2-0 lead. Aberdeen fired a bevy of shots at Bruins goalie Tyler Shea during a late-period power play, but he held the Wings at bay, keeping the two-goal lead heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation play.
But the final period was all Aberdeen.
Jake Goldowski got the Wings on the board first at the 1:40 mark in the third, scoring his first goal as a Wing off an assist from Kyle Gaffney and Christian Abrams. Aberdeen kept the momentum going, keeping puck possession and lofting shots at Shea. At the 4:05 mark, Thomas Manty found the back of the net off a quick shot from Natan Vertes to tie the game at two a piece, also assisted by Payton Matsui. The goal marked the fifth straight in which Manty has scored for the Wings.
Just 20 seconds later, Will Arquiett gave the Wings the 3-2 lead, assisted by Goldowski and Trevor Russell, who notched his 17th assist of the season.
Following the go-ahead goal, the Wings once again found themselves on the power play. Goldowski snagged his second goal of the season just four minutes and twelve seconds after his first — at the 5:52 mark in the third period, he gave the Wings the two-point cushion off an assist from Cullen Ferguson. The game’s final goal came at the 9:25 mark when Abrams notched a goal of his own, assisted by Jordan Randall.
Wings head coach Scott Langer was happy about his team’s level of play in the latter half of the game, which started with shots picking up in the second.
“I thought in the last ten minutes of the second period, we started to build momentum,” he said. “In the third, our guys came out on a mission and dominated from the drop of the puck. We grew tonight as a team!”
The Wings went 2 for 3 on the power play while holding Austin to just 1 of 4. Wings goalie Jake Sibell snagged his league-leading 24th win, stopping 23 of 25 shots faced and keeping his status at the top of the NAHL goalie leaderboard with a 1.08 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage.
Austin’s Shea stopped 31 of 36. They fall to 9-15-2-2 on the season.
Outshooting the Bruins 36 to 25, Langer was equally impressed with his team’s ability to shut down shots in the second half of the game.
“We are a defense-first team, and once we secured the lead, it was about shutdown hockey,” he said.
The victory not only cements the Wings, now 28-1-0-1, at the top of the North American Hockey League with 57 points, but the three-goal cushion drove their goal difference to triple digits. In the 2020-21 season, Aberdeen has scored 135 goals and have been scored on 35 times, a difference of 100 goals.
Aberdeen and Austin will face each other again inside Riverside Arena Saturday night. Puck drops at 7:05 p.m. Wings fans can watch the game live at Buffalo Wings and Rings in Aberdeen or via their HockeyTV login. Fans can also listen to the game’s audio via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.