The Aberdeen Wings got back into the win column Saturday night after taking a 3-1 win over the Bismarck Bobcats on the road at the VFW Sports Center.
After the puck luck didn’t fall their way Friday, the Wings seemed to be firing on all cylinders during Saturday’s contest, grabbing a power play goal, staying perfect on the penalty kill once again, and getting some big help from goaltender Geno Pichora, who was back between the pipes for the first time since the middle of September.
The first period was a track meet, with both teams going back and forth on the ice. Five players found themselves inside the penalty box, with several minutes of 4-on-4 hockey and some short power play opportunities. Pichora made some key saves to keep his team within striking distance, and when the horn sounded after the first 20 minutes, the Wings killed three penalties and the Bobcats killed two, and the score remained tied at zero.
It was Aberdeen who broke open the scoring at the 4:38 mark in the second period. That’s when Patrick O’Connell got the puck deep in Bismarck’s zone and passed cross-ice to Nick Justice, who fired from the top of the circle through traffic and into the back of the net. It was Justice’s second goal as a Wing, fifth overall on the season, while O’Connell picked up his team-leading 14th assist and Nikolai Tishkevich grabbed his eighth.
Later in the period, Pichora kept Bismarck at bay fighting off a breakaway, and once again the teams battled back and forth up and down the ice, but the Bobcats evened things up when Patrick Johnson scored at the 17:12 mark. Bismarck also killed off another penalty later in the period, and the teams headed into the final intermission once again tied up, this time at one apiece.
The Bobcats took a penalty in the opening minute of the third period and the Wings capitalized with time ticking down with the man advantage. Tishkevish got the puck near the blue line and skated in before passing over to Alexander Gullichsen, who fired from a knee into the top corner to get the lead back at the 2:37 mark. The eventual game-winner was Gullichsen’s eighth goal on the season, while Kyle Contessa picked up his eighth assist and Tishkevich notched his second of the game, ninth overall.
Just over a minute later, Aberdeen increased their lead to two when Owen DuBois was the recipient of a perfect pass near the crease, firing from close range at the 3:44 mark. The Wings’ captain got his third goal on the year, while Contessa grabbed his second assist of the game, ninth overall, and Justice picked up his second.
Halfway through the period, Pichora came up big once again, denying another Bobcat breakaway, and the Wings had another power play opportunity. Bismarck pulled netminder Lindards Lipskis from between the pipes with just over a minute to play, but the Wings fought off the extra attacker and took the 3-1 victory when the final horn sounded.
It was a fairly even battle, with each team firing off 26 totals shots during the game. Aberdeen went 1-5 on the power play while holding Bismarck to 0-3 — after meeting each other three times in the last three games, the Wings didn’t give up a single power play goal.
“We were harder to play against tonight,” Wings head coach Scott Langer said, nothing a difference in his squad compared to Friday’s loss. “We made some plays that allowed us to create offense.”
Pichora denied 25 of the 26 shots he faced, including two breakaways and several odd-man rushes. And for Langer, his goaltender stood tall in his first game back after a lengthy break.
“Geno worked very hard to get back and help his team win games,” he said. “The team played well in front of him and allowed him to settle in. Geno ended up getting the Hard Hat Award after a great performance tonight.”
The Wings (12-8-1-2) head back to the Odde Ice Center next weekend for another bout against the Central Division leaders, the Austin Bruins, on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. both nights with the puck hitting the ice at 7:15 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the games online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com, or at the door on game nights. Fans can also get $10 general admission tickets at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.
Stay tuned to AberdeenWings.com for more details on the upcoming weekend.