Saturday night’s matchup between the Aberdeen Wings (7-5-0-0) and the North Iowa Bulls (8-4-0-2) was a back-and-forth affair from start to finish.
But when the dust settled after 60 minutes of regulation play, five minutes of overtime and a shootout, the Wings emerged victorious, sweeping the weekend and claiming four coveted league points.
The first goal of the game came just under halfway through the first period when Jacob Bosse took a shot on goal and Jackson Yee was there to grab the rebound, burying the puck for his sixth goal of the season. Bosse grabbed his seventh assist on the year, while Hugo Gustafsson notched his third.
The Bulls fired back just over four minutes later when Carter Rapalje snuck one past Wings goaltender Dominik Wasik at the 13:46 mark to tie the game at one apiece. But Aberdeen responded less than two minutes later when Yee hustled through the crease, was denied a tight-angled shot, but Hugo Allais was there to grab the rebound and fire it past Bulls netminder Carsen Stokes. That was Allais’ second goal on the season, while Yee picked up his first assist and Maksis Brimanis notched his fourth.
But the back-and-forth play continued just 25 seconds later when Ryan Coughlin crashed the net, knocking down Wasik in the process, to tie the game once again. After four goals in the opening stanza, the Wings outshot North Iowa 17-10 but headed into the first intermission tied at two.
The Bulls grabbed their first lead of the game at the 3:14 mark in the second period when Hunter Bulger skated in and fired a quick shot past Wasik. But the Wings tied the game once again at the 8:18 mark of the second — after Stokes denied one shot, a stick battle ensued in front of the crease and Kevin MacKay found the puck and put it in the back of the net. It was his second goal of the season, while Yee grabbed his second assist of the game and Jacob Bosse racked up his eighth assist on the year.
With the game tied 3-3, the Wings kept the pressure and managed to take the lead once again at the 14:08 mark. Anthony Messuri stripped the puck and passed cross-ice to MacKay, who skated in and fired a rocket past Stokes to give his team the 4-3 lead. It was MacKay’s second goal of the game, third on the year, and Messuri’s fourth assist of the season.
After the goal, the Bulls put Hunter Garvey between the pipes and neither team managed to score again in the period. The Wings outshot the Bulls once again, taking 16 shots and holding North Iowa to 13.
The Bulls came out firing in the game’s final period of regulation hockey, peppering Wasik with 14 shots while the Wings tried to defend their lead. With less than three minutes on the clock, they found success when Rapalje got his second goal of the night and tied the game once again at four apiece. When the buzzer sounded, the fans inside the Odde Ice Center were treated to extra hockey and the two teams readied for overtime play.
But after five minutes of three-on-three overtime, neither team scored and the game’s fate was left in the hands of the goalies as Wasik and Garvey readied themselves for a shootout.
Byron Hartley was up first for North Iowa, but Wasik followed the puck in and denied the shot. Aberdeen’s first shooter, Ronan Walsh, was also denied. Bulls’ second shooter, Logan Dombrowski, also couldn’t fool Wasik and the score remained even.
Aberdeen’s second shooter, Cade Neilson, skated out to his far right, then entered the zone and went five-hole on Garvey to give the Wings the edge. Wasik just needed to deny Bulls’ third shooter Ryan Coughlin — and he did just that, claiming victory for the Wings and securing the Saturday points.
Wings head coach Steven Jennings was very happy with how his goaltender played over the course of the weekend, and was impressed with his calm demeanor through the shootout.
“When we look at goaltending, we need them to give us a chance to win,” he said after the game. “I was happy for (Dominik) taking the step to develop confidence and secure the win.”
Overall, Wasik denied 40 of the 44 shots he faced plus all three shootout attempts. Over the weekend, he recorded a .927 save percentage. Stokes denied 25 of 29 for the Bulls, and Garvey turned away 12 of 12 before the shootout goal that decided the game.
“It’s been really good,” Jennings said of this squad’s effort over the weekend. “The guys are working hard and they’re disciplined in what we do and are making it difficult for other teams to perform.”
The Wings went 0-2 on the power play and held North Iowa to 0-3, moving into second place in the NAHL for their penalty kill percentage.
Yee had a three-point game, grabbing four total points over the weekend. Bosse also had a four-point weekend after grabbing two points in each game. And twelve games into the season, the Wings nabbed their first weekend sweep — and were happy to do it in front of their home crowd.
“It was great for this crew as they developed their identity and found a way,” Jennings said. “It was good to get the result they worked hard on. We caught a bad break on the last goal to tie it up, but they played with resilience and everyone pulled their weight. It was a great weekend, and the kids are happy about it. They’ll use this weekend to build momentum heading into Austin this weekend.”
Aberdeen welcomes the Bruins inside the Odde next weekend, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 29 and 30. Fans are invited to help the Wings “Break the Barn” with the hopes of setting a franchise record for most fans in attendance as part of Rooster Rush weekend. Saturday’s game is Halloween night, where fans are encouraged to dress up and children will receive candy.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck drops at 7:15 p.m. both nights. Tickets can be purchased ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com, or at the door on game night. $10 general admission tickets can also be purchased at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase. We welcome AGP as the game’s corporate sponsor Friday night, but $15 barstool seats can be purchased inside the AutoMaxx Party Deck for Saturday’s matchup; call Aaron Smith at 605-380-5852 to secure your spot.