After a four-game skid, the Aberdeen Wings knew they needed to get back into the win column.
And after a big, four-goal second period, it was mission accomplished Friday night as they took a 5-1 win over the St. Cloud Norsemen on the road at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex.
The Wings got off to a hot start inside the MAC, taking four shots on goal inside the first minute alone. Their heavy offensive presence held the Norsemen at bay, preventing their first shot on goal until five minutes into the contest. But both teams held up defensively, with each killing off a penalty, and the teams remained scoreless after the first 20 minutes and nine shots on goal apiece.
But as well as they started in the first, the Wings started the second period with an even bigger presence.
Less than a minute into the middle stanza, Kyle Contessa stole the puck near the top of the Norsemen circles and skated in alone to put the Wings on the board at the :42 mark. The unassisted goal was his first wearing the Wings’ sweater.
The Wings killed off a Norsemen power play and scored again shortly after. That’s when Barron Stibbe got the puck, skated behind St. Cloud’s net and wrapped around the goal and past netminder Tomas Bolo to give the Wings the 2-0 lead at the 4:59 mark. It was Stibbe’s second goal on the season, while Jaxon Grosdidier picked up his first assist and Patrick O’Connell notched his fourth.
Aberdeen, plagued by penalty trouble once again, killed off another penalty two minutes later thanks to some big saves by Wings goaltender Cole Moore — and in similar fashion to the previous goal, got on the board again quickly. After a blocked shot by Landon Parker, the Wings led a 3-on-1 attack and Ronan Walsh fired into the upper righthand corner for the 3-0 lead at the 9:27 mark. Walsh grabbed his third goal on the year, while Parker nabbed his first assist and Alexander Gullichsen got his second.
And with that, Bolo — last year’s Central Division Goaltender of the Year — was replaced by Ethan Dahlmeir.
The aforementioned Wings penalties dug a thorn into their side shortly after when two players committed penalties just three seconds apart, giving the Norsemen an extended 5-on-3 power play. Moore came up with several big saves and the Wings even got a good shorthanded opportunity, but Nik Hong found a rebound and used the open space to get St. Cloud on the board at the 12:13 mark.
Aberdeen killed off the remaining penalty and got the three-goal lead back two minutes later. That’s when Owen DuBois skated the puck around the circle and near the crease before centering a perfect pass to Nils Forselius, who tapped it into the upper lefthand corner for his first goal as a Wing and the 4-1 lead at the 15:25 mark; DuBois got his third assist on the season and Dylan Wegner picked up his second.
The Norsemen dug deep in the period’s closing minutes, forcing Moore to make some big saves, one of them a breakaway; they even got one past him — but the officials declared a hand pass was the cause of the goal and Aberdeen kept the three-goal cushion heading into the final intermission.
“I thought he was great tonight,” Jennings said of his goaltender. “He made some big saves and was a big part of our kill.”
Moore came up big again to start the third period and the teams traded penalties, with Aberdeen getting three power play opportunities and blocking shot after shot when the Norsemen had a man-advantage. The period remained scoreless until the 17:09 mark when Jackson Anderson sent a long pass to Walsh, who got behind St. Cloud’s defense and fired top shelf for the four-goal lead. Walsh grabbed his second goal of the game and fourth overall on the year, while Anderson picked up his first assist and Nikolai Tishkevich notched his fourth.
The Wings had to serve a penalty for too many men in the game’s final minute but held strong defensively, once again getting a good shorthanded look in the process — and when the final horn sounded, they took the 5-1 win, snapping the Norsemen’s four-game win streak in the process.
“Every line scored,” Jennings said, pleased with his team’s ability to generate even-strength offensive pressure. “We were better on the forecheck and overall, I thought we did a much better job playing our game.”
The Wings gave up one five-on-three power play goal, holding the Norsemen to 1-7 overall on the night, and going 0-5 themselves despite several good chances. Moore denied 26 of the 27 shots he faced.
The teams will face off again in St. Cloud Saturday night with another 7 p.m. puck drop. 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, and is also available on The Rock app.
For Jennings and co., the goal for Saturday’s game is simple.
“We need to come back ready for an elevated effort from them,” he said. “We need to build off the momentum we built.”