The Aberdeen Wings found themselves down by two late in the first period but clawed their way back to tie the score and send the game to overtime.
But after a late penalty, the Austin Bruins got a power play goal to seal the deal, and the Wings fell 3-2 inside Riverside Arena in Austin Friday night.
The Wings went on the penalty kill just 30 seconds into the game but came up with a couple good shorthanded chances. But the Bruins got on the board first after Austin Salani took advantage of a turnover at the 4:09 mark in the first. They doubled their lead at the 15:35 mark in the opening period on a backdoor goal from Anthony Menghini.
At the 18:05 mark, the Wings found themselves on their second power play of the night and took advantage of the extra attacker. Just 26 seconds into the penalty, Aberdeen cycled the puck around and fed it through the crease to a waiting Ronan Walsh, who found the empty backdoor to get the Wings on the board at the 18:31 mark. It was his 15th goal on the season, while Kyle Gaffney grabbed his 21st assist and Hugo Gustafsson got his seventh.
Aberdeen killed both of Austin’s power plays while going 1-2 themselves in the first period, and trailed 2-1 heading into the first intermission.
The puck was in Aberdeen’s zone quite a bit in the middle period but the Wings saw several nice chances themselves. They went on the power play once more, while Austin saw two more power play chances in the middle period, and they started the final period with the extra attacker. But Wings goaltender Greg Orosz made several nice saves to start the third to keep his team within striking distance.
Those saves turned out to be very important when Gaffney intercepted the puck at the blue line and fired a shot from between the circles and into the back of the net at the 3:53 mark to tie the game a two apiece. The Wings killed off two more Bruins power plays in the third and went on the power play once themselves, albeit for just five seconds. When the final horn sounded, the score remained tied and the teams faced five minutes of extra hockey.
Orosz made another big save to start the overtime and Cade Neilson picked the Bruins’ pocket for a nice look himself. Aberdeen had an opportunity when they went on the power play less than a minute into overtime, but a penalty shortened their time with the extra man and the Bruins ended up on the power play for a short time themselves. And they were successful when Carson Riddle found open ice and grabbed the game’s final goal.
Overall, the Wings remained perfect on the penalty kill during regulation, killing off six Bruins chances, and Austin went 1-7 on the night overall. That keeps Aberdeen at the top of the league’s penalty killing column with 90.2 percent. The Wings went 1-5 on the power play, sitting in second in the Central Division behind Austin with 20.8 percent.
Wings head coach Steve Jennings was happy that his team found a way to climb out of a two-point deficit and take the game to extra minutes.
“The power play goal was a great spark, and from that point on I felt we had more confidence,” he said. “I don’t think we got outplayed, but there were too many times when we made poor decisions with the puck and made life harder for ourselves.”
While overall shots on goal were unavailable, Greg Orosz stopped all but three, making some key saves at important moments.
“He played well,” Jennings said of his goalie. “He came up with some big, timely saves. They have a good power play and when they were able to generate shots, he did a good job shutting the door.”
The Bruins (21-12-1-2) remain at the top of the Central Division and the Wings (18-14-1-2) remain in third — but the rematch comes quick as they face each other again Saturday night in Austin. And for Jennings, the game plan is simple.
“Better puck management. Take fewer penalties,” he said.
Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login, or catch the action at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all Wings away games. The game’s audio is broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock; you can also download The Rock app and take the game wherever you go.
The Wings return to home ice on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 28-29 when we host the North Iowa Bulls to finish out the month of January. Stay tuned to AberdeenWings.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for gameday updates.