The Aberdeen Wings had a short week after defeating the Minot Minotauros to advance in the Central Division finals, but the short work week proved to be a successful one as the Wings defeated the visiting Bismarck Bobcats 5-3 Friday night inside the Odde Ice Center.
The Wings lead the series 1-0.
Bismarck, who swept the Minnesota Wilderness in their semifinal round, took their first postseason loss against a dominating Aberdeen team. But they kept up with the Wings, forcing a tie game in the third period before the Wings took the go-ahead goal and held on for the win.
Action started quickly inside the Odde when Will Arquiett skated the puck down the ice, around a defender and over the shoulder of Bobcat goaltender Ian Shane to give the Wings the 1-0 lead just 1:39 into the game. He grabbed his second postseason goal, while Jake Goldowski got his second postseason assist and Christian Abrams notched his first.
Less than five minutes later, Abrams widened the gap with a tight-angled shot of his own, scoring his first postseason goal at the 6:15 mark. Clayton Cosentino assisted on the play, his fourth postseason apple, while Natan Vertes recorded his second, and the Wings took the 2-0 lead on their first three shots of the game.
Bismarck brought the score back within one when Ryan Taylor found an open backdoor at the 17:12 mark for his second postseason goal. But Aberdeen outshot the Bobcats by one, 9-8, and headed into the first break leading by the same margin.
The Wings started the second period on the penalty kill but held off the man-advantage. They went on the power play themselves later in the period, but Bismarck kept them at bay. With time trickling down in the middle period, Payton Matsui redirected a shot from Cullen Ferguson to put the Wings back up by two at the 19:24 mark. It was Matsui’s second postseason goal and Ferguson’s third assist; Nico deVita also got credit for the helper, notching this fourth. After dominating shots on goal 20-7, the Wings skated into the final intermission leading 3-1.
Bismarck fought back early in the third — Luke Gramer brought the Bobcats back within one at the 3:10 mark, grabbing his second postseason goal, and Austin Schwartz capitalized on a Wings turnover to beat Wings goalie Jake Sibell one-on-one to tie the game at the 9:53 mark. However, Aberdeen needed just ten seconds to get the go-ahead when Jakob Stender sent a long pass into the Bismarck zone and Cosentino beat the defenders, turning the puck and playing it off Shane for the game-winner. That was Cosentino’s third postseason goal and Stender’s second postseason assist.
With the Wings leading by one point halfway through the third, they did all they could to stave off another possible overtime period — Aberdeen played in nearly three full overtime periods in two semifinal games. Bismarck pulled Shane from between the pipes with 1:22 remaining in regulation, giving themselves the extra attacker, and overall fired 13 shots at Sibell while holding the Wings to just six in the final 20 minutes. But at the 19:43 mark, Jake Goldowski got his stick on a Bismarck pass to force a turnover and put one in the empty net, giving the Wings the insurance they were looking for. The Wings held on for 17 seconds to claim the 5-3 victory.
“Getting out to a lead against a very good Bobcat team was very important,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said after the win. “I also like the way we responded after game getting tied up.”
Overall, the Wings outshot the Bobcats 34-29, with Shane stopping 29-33 and Sibell denying 26-29. During his postseason run, Sibell has allowed just 16 goals on 199 shots, good for a .920 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average. Both teams went 0-1 on the power play.
For Langer, he had a straightforward takeaway from Friday’s game.
“We found a way to get the first win of the series,” he said. “We expect to be better tomorrow.”
Game Two of the Central Division Finals takes place back inside the Odde Saturday night. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck drops at 7:15 p.m. Fans are invited to a parking lot party hosted by Hub City Radio before the game. Tickets can be purchased at tickets.AberdeenWings.com or at any of the four C-Express locations in Aberdeen, with additional purchase. The game is broadcast over HockeyTV and the audio can also be heard on Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.
The first 100 fans through the door Saturday will receive a pack of Aberdeen Wings trading cards.