The puck dropped in Aberdeen on Friday, but the game didn’t get over until Saturday.
After nearly three full overtime periods — over 114 total minutes — the St. Cloud Norsemen beat the Aberdeen Wings 3-2, taking a 2-1 series lead in the Central Division Finals.
It was a grueling battle, with two goals scored in the first and another two scored in the second period. In fact, over 90 minutes of game time elapsed between the Wings’ equalizing goal in the second and the Norsemen’s OT goal to take the game.
St. Cloud got on the board first when Jackson Hughes fired a shot from between the circles less than three minutes into the contest. But Aberdeen responded later in the period when Owen DuBois won a faceoff in the Norsmen zone and passed the puck to Ronan Walsh, who fired a shot from between the circles. St. Cloud netminder Tomas Bolo blocked Walsh’s shot, but Jacob Bosse was there to put the rebound into the back of the net at the 17:43 mark. Bosse grabbed his third postseason goal, while Walsh and DuBois each got their third postseason assists.
Aberdeen fired off ten shots in the opening period while St. Cloud tallied nine, and the teams headed into the game’s first intermission tied at one apiece.
The Wings went on the power play early in the second but the Norsemen put on the pressure, getting shorthanded goal from Gramm McCormack to put his team back on top at the 3:33 mark. But Aberdeen, still on the power play, responded just 20 seconds later when Will Gilson skated near the blue line and fired a shot through traffic to tie the game again. Gilson grabbed his first postseason goal, while Anthony Galante got his third postseason assist and Kyle Gaffney notched his fifth.
And that was all the scoring until the game’s final goal from Broten Sabo at the 14:32 mark in the third overtime period.
When the dust settled, the Wings went 1-4 on the power play while holding St. Cloud to 0-5, something Wings head coach Steve Jennings was happy to see.
“It was a difference-maker,” he said. “It hurt giving up the shorthanded goal but we bounced right back, evened it out. I think it was good for the guys. It’s playoffs — when you get them, it’s hard to get a good, quality looks and they did a good job with that.”
The Norsemen widened their gap in shots on goal starting in the middle period, taking 16 shots while holding the Wings to nine. In the third period, St. Cloud only got off five shots but held Aberdeen to just one. During the first two overtime periods, the Norsemen edged out the Wings 23-21, but there were several close attempts at the net in the third overtime period, which led to 17 shots for the Norsemen while Aberdeen took just five. Overall, St. Cloud outshot the Wings 70-46.
Wings goaltender Anton Castro denied 57-59 shots while he was between the pipes, but left the game following a pileup in the net just over six minutes into the third overtime. Greg Orosz stepped in, standing strong and turning away 10-11. St. Cloud’s Sabo stopped 44-46.
Despite the tough loss, Jennings was proud of the way his team stuck in the game and refused to back down after playing what equated to nearly two full hockey games.
“I thought the guys did exactly what we talked about doing this week,” he said. “We were way more physical tonight, we made it harder for them to actually settle in and play their game. We blocked the shots we needed to block and had high compete to keep the game going. I thought we did a lot to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”
With the Norsemen taking the 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, Saturday’s game inside the Odde Ice Center will be a must-win for the Wings. If Aberdeen evens the series, Game 5 will take place on Monday, May 16 at 7 p.m. in St. Cloud.
Looking ahead to Saturday, Jennings was happy to have the home-ice advantage in more ways than one, noting the importance of rest after three overtime periods. His team wasn’t the only who played an extra long game.
“Both teams did, so we know we have to come ready tomorrow,” he said. “That’s the whole thing. We have the ability to go home, get a good sleep and come back. We don’t have a lot of stuff we need to fix, so we’ll meet tomorrow, get the guys ready to go, and come back and play a good game tomorrow night. I don’t think they should be panicked about anything. We just need to play our game.”
Doors open inside the Odde Ice Center at 5:30 p.m. for a 7:15 p.m. puck drop Saturday night. Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com or at the door. $10 general admission tickets are also available at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.
Win or lose, Saturday’s game will be the final home game of the season.