Needing a big win at home, the Aberdeen Wings found their footing — and the back of the net — to skate to a 4-2 victory over the Minot Minotauros Saturday night inside the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen.
What’s more, they snapped a five-game Minotauros win streak, and Wings assistant captain Cade Neilson added three more points to his name, effectively reaching the top of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) total points column.
“It feels really great to get a win in front of our home crowd,” defenseman Will Gilson said, who added an empty netter at the end of regulation to give his team some breathing room. “We’ve been waiting on this for a while. We made a lot of progress this weekend so we’re very proud of that. And it’s good to do that in front of the fans.”
The Wings got on the board first late in the first period when Chase Davis took a tight-angled shot from the bottom of the circle and Ronan Walsh was there to grab the rebound at the 16:02 mark. The power play goal was Walsh’s ninth goal on the season, while Davis grabbed his fifth assist and Cade Neilson nabbed his 23rd.
Minot was very quick to answer back when Braden Panzer scored just 22 seconds later. After outshooting the Minotauros 13-11, the teams headed into the first intermission tied at one apiece.
Minot was very quick with their second goal of the night; Colby Joseph scored just 11 seconds into the middle stanza, giving his team their only lead of the game. But Neilson answered back with a goal of his own at the 5:07 mark, stealing the puck in the Minot zone and skating alone to tie the game at two each. The unassisted goal was his eleventh on the year.
Each team killed a penalty and, once again, the Wings edged out Minot in shots on goal 14-12 and headed into the final period tied again. But the third period was all Wings.
Aberdeen got the go-ahead they were looking for at the 8:39 mark — that’s when Gilson skated into the Minot zone and sent a beautiful pass cross-ice to Seamus Campbell, who slapped the puck in the back door of the net. The game-winner was Campbell’s fourth goal of the season, while Gilson grabbed his sixth assist.
With less than a minute on the clock and Minot with an empty net, Gilson grabbed the puck and launched it from the Wings’ own blue line, sailing the puck over everyone’s head and right into the back of the net. The insurance goal was his third on the year, while Owen DuBois got his ninth apple and Neilson got his second assist of the game and league-leading 24th overall.
The final period was very heavy in Aberdeen’s favor, with the two goals coming on eleven shots while holding the Minotauros to just six. Overall, Aberdeen outshot Minot 38-29, with Wing goaltender Greg Orosz denying 27 of those shots for his first win of the year.
“That was a big two points for the standings,” Gilson said. “It was important to win on Saturday night to pick up the split against a good team. It felt amazing.”
Aberdeen went 1-4 on the power play while killing off both of Minot’s power plays. The consistency of the special teams is something that head coach Steve Jennings continues to be proud of.
“I’m pleased with where we are. The power play scoring again, we’re seeing some consistent production and momentum from them,” he said. “The penalty kill tonight was good and, again, we’re seeing consistency there. What was nice tonight was the new personnel getting time on the penalty kill and handling the responsibility well.”
“It’s been the backbone of our team all year, being one of the best killing units in the league,” Gilson added. “It definitely sparked a couple of big victories for us.”
Neilson continues to be a powerhouse for the Wings, adding three more points to his total and effectively taking over the top spot on the NAHL’s points list with 35 overall. After two points in Friday’s matchup, he had a five-point weekend and continued two streaks — he’s on a ten-game points streak, notching 22 in the process, and he’s added 17 assists in the previous ten consecutive games as well.
After playing on home ice for the past three weekends, the Wings had a lot of energy and a lot of shots on goal but couldn’t manage to snag the league points they were looking for on their home turf. They fell to Bismarck at home on Nov. 13 after winning on the road the night before, and fell to the Bobcats again at home on Nov. 19 before winning again on the road on the 20th. To get the win tonight was something Coach Jennings really wanted for his team.
“It was really important,” he said. “The fans have been faithfully showing up and supporting us and it was great to get it in front of them. For the team, it was great to take the step of closing out a game where we have a third period lead.”
The Wings hit the road for Austin next weekend to take on the Bruins on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3 and 4. Fans can watch the away games using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all away games. The game’s audio is broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.
The Wings return to the Odde on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10 and 11 when they once again face the Minotauros on home ice. Stay tuned to AberdeenWings.com or follow the team on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on upcoming home games.