The Aberdeen Wings found themselves down by two less than five minutes into the game Friday night, and even though they fought back to tie the game in the third, they ultimately fell 4-2 to the North Iowa Bulls inside the Odde Ice Center.
Michael Mesic started the scoring for the Bulls at the 1:54 mark in the first period, followed by a goal from Logan Dombrowsky at the 4:18 mark to get North Iowa the two-goal lead early in the game. The Wings edged out the Bulls 13-11 in shots on goal, but also gave them three power play opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, all of which they killed.
The Wings came out firing in the middle period and finally found success at the 14:33 mark. That’s when Seamus Campbell skated into the Bull’s zone and fired a shot; after several Wings took swings at the rebound, Campbell found an open backdoor to put his team back within one. It was his twelfth goal of the season, while Will Diamond grabbed his second assist and Kyle Gaffney racked up his 23rd. The Wings took 21 shots on goal in the second period while holding North Iowa to just five and headed into the final intermission trailing 2-1.
Aberdeen tied the game at two apiece at the 6:23 mark in the final period. Ronan Walsh moved up the wall and past two defenders before taking a tight-angled shot that snuck into the back of the net. It was his 17th goal of the season, while Hugo Gustafsson got his seventh assist.
Just when the momentum felt like it was back in the Wings’ favor, Byron Hartley got behind the Wings’ defense and skated in alone against Wings goaltender Greg Orosz to put his team back up by one at the 10:15 mark. The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the period until Aberdeen pulled Orosz from between the pipes for an extra attacker with just over a minute left to play — but Hartley found the empty net with 40 seconds remaining to seal the Wings’ fate and lead his team to the 4-2 win.
After giving up two early goals in the first period, WIngs head coach Steve Jennings felt his team stepped up and increased their level of play to get back into the game.
“The goals were not the start we wanted, for sure,” he said. “The pushback started in the first and picked up momentum in the second. That shows what we are capable of doing in terms of puck control and making plays.”
Aberdeen certainly pulled off a lot of shots but evidently ran into a hot goaltender. Bulls’ netminder Hunter Garvey was solid for his team, denying 39 of the 41 shots the Wings fired his way, while Orosz stopped 25 of 28 in the loss. North Iowa killed four Wings penalties while the Wings killed five, maintaining their status as the league’s top penalty-killing unit.
Worth noting: during the first intermission, the Wings presented a check to the DTOM Veteran’s Ranch in the amount of $40,183. The money was raised from the Wings’ most recent jersey auction and directly benefited the equine therapy ranch just south of Aberdeen. Special thanks to the Odde family and the Wings’ fans for their incredible generosity.
Aberdeen falls to 18-16-1-2 on the year and drops to fifth place in a very tight Central Division. Three teams (St. Cloud Norsemen, North Iowa Bulls and Minot Minotauros) are tied for second place, and sit just two points ahead of the Wings and six points behind the current top team, the Austin Bruins.
For Jennings, his message to his team is a straightforward one, and he is ready to get back into the win column.
“The message is simple,” he said. “We need to finish our chances and continue to play like we did and push to generate chances. We need to simplify on our chances and stay with them when we get them. If you look at our goals tonight, they were just that — getting to the net and staying with the play.”
The teams will have their rematch Saturday night back inside the Odde. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck hits the ice at 7:15 p.m. It’s College Night — college students can show their valid Student ID and receive a $5 general admission ticket at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com, and $10 general admission tickets are available at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.
We welcome Dakota Fluid Power as the game’s corporate sponsor inside the AutoMaxx Party Deck, and we invite our fans to join us for a post-game party at Buffalo Wings & Rings following the game.