Wings defeat North Iowa in preseason OT thriller

The Aberdeen Wings’ 2021-22 season hasn’t officially started yet, but they got to experience overtime play Saturday afternoon during their second exhibition matchup against the North Iowa Bulls.

But they only played 52 seconds of 3-on-3 hockey before grabbing the 5-4 win in nail-biting fashion.

Aberdeen wanted a quick start after dropping Friday’s matchup, and they did just that at the 7:57 mark when Kyle Gaffney moved behind and around the net to sneak one top shelf to give the Wings the 1-0 lead. Maksis Brimanis and Luke Amell each got credit with the assist. Nearly five minutes later, Landry Schmuck found a rebound in front of the net to give the Wings the 2-0 lead, with the assist going to Anthony Messuri and Amell, who nabbed his second of the game.

With four minutes remaining in the period and Aberdeen on the power play, Gaffney snuck the puck through traffic and Cade Neilson tipped it in for his first preseason goal to give the Wings the 3-0 cushion. Gaffney and Hugo Allais each picked up the assist.

After outshooting the Bulls 19-7, they headed into the first intermission with the three-point cushion. Wings goaltender Kyle Kozma denied all seven shots in the first, while North Iowa’s Carsen Stokes stopped 16-19, and was replaced by Cullen DeYoung to start the second period.

Shortly into the middle stanza, the Wings found themselves on the power play once again. But North Iowa capitalized on a turnover and scored a shorthanded goal on the breakaway to bring themselves back within two at the 3:40 mark. The Wings killed a penalty of their own later in the period and tried to get the momentum back on their side — and at the 14:34 mark, Owen DuBois picked up a rebound shot by defenseman Kevin MacKay, who got the apple along with Seamus Campbell, and the Wings led by three again.

Kozma was tough in net during the middle period, denying a second breakaway attempt from the Bulls, but a five-minute major penalty for the Wings turned into a North Iowa goal with just eleven seconds left in the period. After outshooting the Bulls 25-14, the two teams skated into the final break with Aberdeen leading 4-2.

The Wings had to start the third period still on the penalty kill and managed to stave off the attack — but three seconds after the penalty expired, North Iowa found the back of the net and got themselves within one. Kozma denied one would-be game-tying goal, but the Bulls kept pushing and took advantage of a two-on-one attack to tie the game at four apiece with ten minutes left in regulation play. North Iowa had several chances, including a late-period power play, but the Wings killed the penalty and forced the game into extra minutes when the final buzzer sounded.

With traditional overtime rules in play, the teams headed into five minutes of 3-on-3 hockey — but only needed 52 seconds when Schmuck grabbed the game-winner and his second of the game after a slick pass at the crease from Jacob Bosse and Messuri.

Overall, the Wings took 37 shots against the Bulls while holding them to just 24. Kozma denied 20 of the 24 for the win, while DeYoung stopped 16 of the 18 shots he saw. The Wings went 1-2 on the power play; North Iowa went 1-3. Schmuck tallied two goals for the Wings, while Gaffney had a goal and an assist and Amell and Messuri each notched two assists.

The next time the two teams meet, it’ll be for league points. Aberdeen will travel back to North Iowa on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25 for their first away weekend of the 2021-22 season. But first, they’ll tackle four opponents in four days at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN Sept. 15-18.

Fans can catch the Showcase and the North Iowa away games using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for away Wings hockey.

The Wings will host their season home opener on Friday, Oct. 1 when they host the St. Cloud Norsemen. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck drops at 7:15 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, Oct. 2 at the Odde Ice Center. Tickets can be purchased ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. $10 general admission tickets can also be purchased at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.