The Minot Minotauros came out swinging, but the Aberdeen Wings refused to be bothered as they skated to a 6-1 victory Friday night at the Odde Ice Arena.
With penalties flying during a very physical game, each team saw several players inside the penalty box. But the Wings, who improve to 26-1-0-1 on the season, took plenty of scoring chances against the Minotauros, who fall to 13-12-2-1.
Aberdeen was first to get on the board at the 11:39 mark in the first period when Will Arquiett found the back of the net off an assist from Kevin MacKay and Jake Goldowski. The physicality became apparent, too, with Aberdeen’s Nathan Mann and Minot’s Reid Bogenhom each receiving roughing minors with just under four minutes to play in the first. Aberdeen outshot Minot 20-8 and the teams entered the first intermission with the Wings leading 1-0.
After a Minot tripping penalty, Payton Matsui notched his 15th goal of the season on the power play at the 5:06 mark in the second, assisted by Clay Cosentino, who picked up his league-leading 28th assist, and Liam Fraser, who picked up his tenth.
At the 13:45 mark in the second, Minot brought the score back within one with a power play goal from Blaine Warnert. But with just over a minute left to play in the period, Arquiett scored his second of the night off an assist from Kyle Gaffney. Aberdeen once again outshot Minot, this time 15-8, and the Wings headed into the final intermission with the 3-1 cushion.
In the game’s final 20 minutes, the rough play from Minot increased while Aberdeen managed to keep scoring. Less than three minutes into play, Aberdeen’s Natan Vertes and Minot’s Max Bogdanovich each received ten-minute penalties for fighting — and less than three minutes after that, Cade Neilson went high blocker side to increase the gap with his eighth goal of the season, assisted by Mann and Fraser.
At the 10:03 mark in the third, Arquiett went five-hole on goalie Carter Clafton to snag his fifth goal of the season, as well as the elusive hat trick. He was assisted by Thomas Manty and Trevor Russell.
“Arquiett plays with so much energy and prides himself on work,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said of the forward. “Those types of players get rewarded and that’s how Will’s night went.”
With the Aberdeen crowd on their feet starting a final ten-second countdown, Manty found a goal of his own with just nine seconds left in regulation play, assisted by Goldowski and Russell, who notched his 16th assist of the season. The Wings outshot the Minotauros 11-6, overall taking 46 shots compared to 22.
Minot saw four penalties in the final 40 seconds, with Logan Anderson receiving a 20-minute major for slashing. The Minotauros were called for eight penalties in the period, continuing a style of game that Langer wasn’t happy about.
“Minot came in with the attempt-to-intimidate approach,” he said. “Intimidation has no place in the game of hockey; it went out in the ’90s. Our players were fueled by the motivation Minot gave us tonight.”
Wings goalie Jake Sibell stopped 21-22 shots sent his way, maintaining his status at the top of the NAHL’s top goalie list. Clafton stopped 40-46. The Wings went 2-8 on the power play.
Looking at tomorrow’s rematch between the two teams, Langer’s focus is on his team.
“Their focus was on injuring our players from the drop of the puck,” he said. “Tomorrow when the puck drops, the goal is the same — it’s about playing for one another.”
Doors open at the Odde Saturday night at 5:30 p.m., with the puck hitting the ice at 7:15 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. Reserved and $15 corporate area barstool seats are also available. Fans can also purchase $10 general admission tickets at any C-Express location, with additional purchase. The PeeWee Party continues Saturday, with any PeeWee player in town for the state tournament receiving free admission with the purchase of an adult ticket.