The Aberdeen Wings found themselves in an unfortunate familiar position Saturday night — down in the first period and on the lookout for another comeback.
And they did just that, but ultimately fell short against the North Iowa Bulls, splitting weekend games on the road in a 6-5 loss inside Mason City Arena.
Similar to Friday’s matchup, the Bulls got on the board first when Logan Dombrowsky scored a quick shot off the face-off at the 7:41 mark in the first, scoring on the Bulls’ fifth shot of the game. Just over two minutes later, they snuck another one past Wings goalie Dominik Wasik when Jack Mesic shot over Wasik’s shoulder to give his team the 2-0 lead. At the 13:28 mark, Greg Japchen widened the lead to 3-0 — and shortly after, Wasik was sent to the bench and replaced with Friday’s netminder Kyle Kozma.
Looking to retaliate, the Wings put on the pressure and finally found success when Jackson Yee drove a shot off a Bulls skate that slipped past goalie Carsen Stokes. The unassisted goal was Yee’s third on the year. He wasn’t done scoring, however; with 18 seconds left in the period, Hugo Allais took a shot, and Yee was there to grab the rebound to put the Wings back within one. It was his second goal of the night, fourth overall on the year, while Allais picked up his third assist and Cade Neilson got his fourth.
The Bulls edged out Aberdeen in shots on goal, taking 10 and limiting the Wings to 7, and headed into the first break with the 3-2 lead.
Aberdeen came out firing in the second period, forcing the Bulls to go on the defense. At the 9:17 mark, Owen DuBois took a shot and Maksis Brimanis was there to grab the rebound, tying the game at three apiece and nabbing his first goal as a Wing; DuBois picked up his second assist of the season. Five seconds after the center ice face-off, Landry Schmuck drove to the top of the crease and snuck a backhanded shot in the right corner to give Aberdeen their first lead of the game. It was Schmuck’s first goal as a Wing, and Chase Davis picked up his third apple.
The Bulls responded, however, when Anthony Domina snuck one past Kozma, and the teams were tied at four apiece at the 11:53 mark. The Bulls went on the power play for the first time in the game less than a minute later, but the Wings staved off the attack and the Bulls took a penalty of their own to lead to four-on-four hockey. Shortly after the Bulls killed off the remainder of their penalty, Simone Dadie grabbed a backdoor goal to give the Bulls the lead once again.
North Iowa just edged out Aberdeen in shots on goal 11-10, each team killed their penalties, and they skated into the final break with the Bulls leading 5-4.
The Bulls went on the power play once again early to start the third, and once again, the Wings’ penalty kill unit stepped up to the plate. But North Iowa kept the attack going when Hunter Bulgar split the defense shortly after to give the Bulls the 6-4 lead at the 4:15 mark in the third.
Each team went on the power play again in the third, and while Aberdeen had a great shorthanded look, they couldn’t manage to tighten the gap. With less than a minute to play, Kozma on the bench and an extra attacker on their side, Jacob Bosse grabbed a bouncing puck to put his team back within one. He got his first goal as a Wing, while Neilson got his fifth assist and defenseman Will Gilson got his first.
It was too little, too late, however; the Wings edged out the Bulls in shots on goal, 11-10, but couldn’t score again with the extra attacker on their side, and ultimately fell 6-5 when the final horn sounded.
Once again, it was the penalty kill that reigned supreme in Saturday’s matchup — Aberdeen went 0-2 on the power play and killed each of the Bulls’ three chances. Wasik stopped 5-8 shots before Kozma took over between the pipes — he ended the night making 22 saves in 25 shots sent his way. Stokes denied 25 of the Wings’ 30 shots.
While Wings head coach Steve Jennings didn’t want to see his team fall behind again, he was happy they found a way to get themselves back into the game.
“I like the push back,” he said. “Tying it up and then taking a lead was good to see.”
The Wings (4-2-0-0) sit at third place in the standings tied with North Iowa (4-2-0-0) with eight league points. But they’ll be eyeing their season home opener next weekend at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck hits the ice both Friday and Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. against the St. Cloud Norsemen (
“It will be great to have a full week to prepare at home instead of having to cut it short as we’ve had to do the last few weeks,” Jennings said. “It will be great to get into a normal, daily rhythm.”
And as for finally skating on home ice for the first time this season, Jennings has another trick up his sleeve.
“Getting to play in front of our fans and families in our rink will be awesome,” he said.
Fans can purchase tickets ahead of Friday’s and Saturday’s games online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. $10 general admission tickets can be purchased at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase. Season tickets and corporate game sponsorships are still available, too; call Aaron Smith at 605-380-5852 for more information.