Wings fall in heartbreaking fashion Saturday night

With just one second remaining in overtime hockey and teams and fans expecting another shootout between the Aberdeen Wings and Minot, the Minotauros snuck the puck past Wings netminder Anton Castro to take a 2-1 victory Saturday night inside the Odde Ice Center.

Ronan Walsh got the Wings on the board early in the opening period when he took a cross-ice feed from Will Gilson and fired a rocket from the middle of the circle at the 3:49 mark. It was his 19th goal on the season, while Gilson picked up his 17th assist. Minot killed a penalty in the opening stanza and the Wings outshot the Minotauros 13-8, and skated into the first break with the 1-0 lead.

It was nearly 35 minutes later before another goal, but this time a power play goal from Minot’s David Nesburg as the penalty was about to expire at the 19:38 mark in the second. The Minotauros had two power play opportunities in the middle stanza, but the Wings still managed to outshoot them 10-8 and skated into the final break tied at one apiece.

The Wings started the third period with a good presence in Minot’s zone and ended up outshooting them 13-11 — and when neither team could score in the third, the teams headed to overtime.

Minot held possession of the puck for nearly the first minute of extra hockey before the Wings got a couple nice shots on goal. But a penalty with just under two minutes left was the Wings’ downfall — time trickling down, Castro made several big saves, but the extra attacker proved to be too much when Ben Johnson scored at the 4:59 mark, lifting Minot to the 2-1 victory to split the weekend.

Both of Minot’s goals came on the power play; their unit went 2-3 overall in the game, while the Wings were held to 0-1. The Wings took 37 shots on goal overall, while Castro denied 30 of the 32 shots he saw.

Despite the loss, the Wings (24-18-2-2) remain in second place in a tight Central Division, grabbing three out of four points on the weekend and holding 52 total league points. The St. Cloud Norsemen (28-14-0-1) took a big loss Saturday, their first after winning thirteen in a row, and remain in first place with 57 league points. The Austin Bruins (23-20-2-2) fall to third after being swept for the third weekend in a row and are now tied with Minot, who sits in fourth, with 50 league points. The North Iowa Bulls (21-19-2-4) and the Bismarck Bobcats (20-23-1-2) sit just outside of playoff position with 48 and 43 points, respectively.

But with just 14 points separating first and sixth place, and with most teams facing less than 15 games in the regular season, more changes are bound to come as playoffs near. Add in the fact that Bismarck has won their last five straight, coupled with the varying number of games teams have left to play, it’s no wonder that the Central Division will be the one to watch until the final weekend of the regular season, slated for April 15-16.

The current top teams — Aberdeen and St. Cloud — will face off next weekend on the Norsemen’s home ice before the Wings return to the Odde to host the Bobcats on March 11-12. Fans can watch the upcoming away games on HockeyTV (subscription required) or catch the action at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all Wings away games. The games’ audio is broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.

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