For the fourth time the season, the Aberdeen Wings and the North Iowa Bulls found themselves facing a shootout to decide the game’s fate.
And for the fourth time this season, the Wings came away with the win, skating to a 4-3 victory Friday night on the road in North Iowa.
It wasn’t the best start or finish for the Wings in regulation hockey, but a strong middle period propelled Aberdeen to the shootout, where they buried two of their three shots; Wings goaltender Greg Orosz denied two of three himself for his eighth win on the year.
It was the Bulls who got on the board first when Carter Rapalje snuck one past Orosz at the 16:54 mark in the opening period. The Wings applied good pressure in the North Iowa zone and edged out the Bulls 7-6 in shots on goal, but skated into the first break trailing by one.
The middle period was all Aberdeen.
The Wings started the period on the power play and even played 14 seconds of five-on-three hockey. Just two seconds into the second penalty, Wings captain Kyle Gaffney picked up a rebound and fired from his knee for the power play goal just 1:03 into the period, picking up his 14th goal of the season. Will Gilson racked up his 21st assist while Seamus Campbell got his twelfth.
Just over halfway through the period, Aberdeen got their second power play goal of the game when Gilson grabbed the puck following a face-off in the Bulls’ zone and fed it around to Neilson, who fired from the circle to put his team up by one. It was his 21st goal on the season, while Gilson grabbed his second assist of the game and 22nd overall, and Gaffney got his 26th.
Just 48 seconds later, Aberdeen doubled their lead when Will Diamond fed the puck from behind the net to Jackson Yee, who was waiting in the crease to put it just above the leg of North Iowa netminder Hunter Garvey. Yee grabbed his twelfth goal of the season, while Diamond got his fourth apple and Devon Carlstrom notched his tenth.
The Wings fired eleven shots at Garvey in the middle period while holding the Bulls to five, finding the back of the net three times to take the 3-1 lead heading into the final period.
Just as the middle stanza belonged to Aberdeen, the final period belonged to North Iowa. Rapalje came out firing quick, cutting the Wings lead to one just 23 seconds into the third. Then Joey Potter beat Orosz with a power play goal at the 11:51 mark to tie the game at three apiece. North Iowa outshot Aberdeen 11-4 in the final period, flipping the shots-on-goal number in their favor and forcing the game into overtime when the regulation horn sounded.
North Iowa got a single shot on Orosz in the overtime period while the Wings took two, and once again the game’s fate went to a shootout. Aberdeen’s first shooter, Patrick O’Connell, went five-hole on Garvey to give his team the advantage. Orosz stopped Bulls’ first shooter Logan Dombrowsky, but Garvey also denied second Wings shooter Cade Neilson; North Iowa’s second shooter Max Scott evened things up once again. Aberdeen’s third shooter, Gilson, skated in quickly and fired a shot over the glove of Garvey, and Orosz used his pads to deny Bulls’ third shooter, Rapalje.
Thanks to two power play goals in the middle period, the Wings went 2-4 overall on the power play while holding North Iowa to 1-3.
“The penalty kill overall was good, but we never want to give a goal on the kill,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said. “The power play was great and really gave us a push when we needed it. We’ve been looking for more production from them and they delivered.”
Despite a slower start to the game and a Bulls comeback in the third, he was pleased with how his team handled themselves on the road.
“I was happy in the second,” he said. “We built momentum and put ourselves in a spot to win the game.”
Orosz denied 19 of the 22 shots he faced in the game, plus two shootout attempts, while Garvey stopped 21 of the 24 shots the Wings fired his way.
“He did well tonight,” Jennings said of the Hungarian goaltender. “He kept us in the game and did well in the shootout. He gives us confidence when he plays.”
The Wings will look to pick up the sweep Saturday night with another 7:30 p.m. puck drop in Mason City. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login, or catch the action live 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.
The Wings will return to the Odde to finish the month of March on home ice against the Austin Bruins. Saturday’s game is our annual Teddy Bear Toss, plus our game-worn jersey auction will take place immediately following the game.