Wings defeat Minotauros to take 1-0 series lead

The Central Division’s No. 1 Aberdeen Wings continued their dominance on the ice into the first game of the semifinal round of playoffs, defeating the No. 4 Minot Minotauros 3-1 inside the Odde Ice Center Friday night.

The Wings lead the series 1-0, with Game 2 happening Saturday night in Aberdeen.

Wanting to get on the board first — and quickly — Thomas Manty found himself in the right place at the right time, putting in a rebound to get the Wings on the board at the 4:33 mark in the first. Nico deVita and Cade Neilson each picked up their first post-season assists on the goal.

Late in the period and on the power play, Aberdeen added another goal when Natan Vertes skated in to the circle and fired a shot past Minot’s goaltender Keenan Rancier, putting the Wings up 2-0 at the 19:23 mark. This time, Trevor Russell and Clayton Cosentino notched their first post-season assists. The Wings outshot the Minotauros 16-10 and headed into the first break with the two-point cushion.

At the 4:24 mark in the second period, Minot’s Kyle Kukkonen snuck one past Jake Sibell to put the Minotauros within striking distance. However, neither team scored again in the middle period — in which Aberdeen once again outshot Minot, this time 15-9 — and the teams headed into the final intermission with the Wings leading 2-1.

Minot started the third period on the power play, but the Wings killed the penalty and continued to limit the Minotauros’ chances. At the 10:43 mark, Manty scored his second goal of the game, widening the gap with a backhanded shot on the short side. Spencer Schneider got his first post-season assist, while Neilson notched his second. The Wings killed a second penalty in the game’s final period, and held Minot to eight shots while peppering Rancier with 15, and skated to the 3-1 win when the final buzzer sounded.

Overall, Aberdeen took 46 shots on goal while holding Minot to just 27. Rancier stopped 43 of the 46 shots and Sibell denied 26 of 27 to claim the W.

“We got out in front early and that allowed us to play our game,” Wings head coach and general manager said. “Playoff hockey is tight, and we found a way against a very good goaltender.”

The Wings killed off two penalties while going 1-2 on the power play, something Langer was happy with.

“Special teams are very important in a five-game series,” he said. “The goal is to win the battle of the special teams.”

Aberdeen will host Minot Saturday night for the series’ second game. Doors open at the Odde at 5:30 p.m. and the puck drops at 7:15 p.m. Wings fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. Fans can also purchase $10 general admission tickets at any of the four C-Express locations in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.

Fans are also invited to a post-game party following Saturday’s game at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen.