Wings grab NAHL record with 50th win

The Aberdeen Wings cemented themselves in North American Hockey League history Friday night inside the Odde Ice Center.

In a season already shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, the Wings managed to do something no other team has done before — win 50 games. And that’s out of just 55 games played.

What’s more, they tied the NAHL’s overall points record, claiming 101 points so far in the regular season with one more game to go Saturday night.

Friday’s win was a dominating 10-1 win over the Minot Minotauros, where the Wings outshot their opponent three-to-one, shutting down nearly every scoring chance while continuing to get pucks past the Minot netminders.

The Minotauros were the ones to get on the board first when Jay Buchhols snuck one past Wings goalie Jake Sibell less than a minute-and-a-half into the game.

However, the Wings scored ten unanswered to earn the two points and the NAHL record.

The scoring barrage started just under five minutes into the first when Jake Goldowski worked the puck in front of the net and fired a shot to even things up, scoring his 16th goal of the season. Trevor Russell picked up his 33rd assist, while Will Arquiett notched his 17th. Just over ten minutes later, Jakob Stender snuck one behind Minot’s Keenan Rancier and Spencer Schneider tapped it in, getting the eventual game-winner and his 25th goal on the year. Stender grabbed his 17th assist, while Owen DuBois got his 2nd.

Just over three minutes later, at the 13:04 mark, Nico deVita stepped on the ice, took a pass and a shot, and got his eighth goal of the season to give the Wings the 3-1 lead. Thomas Manty racked up his 28th assist, while DuBois added another to his total. After taking 18 shots on goal while holding the Minotauros to just five, the Wings headed into the first intermission with the two-point cushion.

Aberdeen added another four goals in the middle period, with Natan Vertes claiming three of them. His first came on the power play at the 5:26 mark when he took a pass in the corner and skated in for his 24th goal of the year. deVita grabbed his 30th apple, while Cullen Ferguson notched his 15th. Less than two minutes later, Vertes forced a turnover and took a back-and-forth pass from Liam Fraser for his second goal of the night. Wings captain Clayton Cosentino also grabbed an assist on the goal.

At the 14:42 mark, now with Carter Clafton between the pipes for Minot, Manty got a goal of his own, picking up a rebound to put the Wings up 6-1. Christian Abrams nabbed his 10th assist of the season, while DuBois recorded his third of the game and fourth overall. Then, with less than a minute on the clock in the second, Vertes grabbed another rebound for his third goal of the night — and claimed his third hat trick of the season. Newcomer Jacob Napier picked up his first assist, while Cosentino grabbed his second apple of the evening. After another lopsided attack, with the Wings outshooting the Minotauros 17-7, Aberdeen skated into the final break with the 7-1 lead.

At the 1:41 mark in the third period, Fraser picked up his own rebound to record his 16th goal of the season. Cosentino grabbed another assist on the goal, along with Vertes, recording his 19th on the season. Nineteen seconds later, Jordan Randall took a pass from Nate Mann for his 18th goal of the season; Mann notched his second assist, while Payton Matsui nabbed his 38th.

The game’s final goal came at the 12:12 mark; that’s when Vertes scored his fourth goal of the game and 27th overall when his shot hit the crossbar and bounced off Clafton into the net. Cosentino racked up his fourth assist of the game, totaling a league-leading 47 overall, while Fraser grabbed his second of the night and 19th overall. With that, the Wings claimed the 10-1 victory.

Minot once again struggled offensively, taking just three shots in the final period compared to 19 from Aberdeen. Overall, the Wings outshot the Minotauros 54-14. Sibell stopped 13 of those 14 shots, maintaining his status at the top of the NAHL’s goalie list with a 1.20 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage. Rancier stopped 20 of 25 shots, and Clafton stopped 24 of 29 sent his way.

“This group continues to impress me,” Wings head coach Scott Langer said after the big win. “I am so proud of this group of guys and how they perform in key games.”

With post-season positioning on the line, the Wings delivered a tough loss to the Minotauros, who are just two points ahead of the Minnesota Wilderness. Another win for the Wilderness could bump them up in the Central Division standings; Minot will need at least one point in Saturday’s matchup to hold onto their third-place seating.

Several Wings players had huge nights: Vertes had a five-point game, while Cosentino’s four-point game shoots him into second place overall in the league, right behind leading scorer Matsui. DuBois added three points, as well as Fraser, who played in his milestone 150th junior hockey game.

As for the Wings’ milestone win, Langer put it quite simply.

“It feels really good to be a part of a team that an accomplish such a thing in a shortened season,” he said.

The Wings and the Minotauros will face each other for the final game of the regular season Saturday night inside the Odde. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the puck hits the ice at 7:15 p.m. Wings fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. $10 general admission tickets can also be purchased ahead of the game at any of the four C-Express locations in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.