Wings grab thrilling OT win Friday

After getting on the board early in the first period, the Aberdeen Wings found themselves down a goal late in the third. But just when things looked grim, Cade Neilson pushed his team to overtime, then scored again to lead the Wings to big a 4-3 win over the North Iowa Bulls Friday night inside the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen.

It took Wings captain Kyle Gaffney just 43 seconds to find the back of the net in the opening stanza. The Bulls sent the puck around their own net and bounced it out in front of the crease, and Seamus Campbell was there to send it to Gaffney, who fired into the back door to put his team on the board. Gaffney notched his sixth goal on the year, while Campbell grabbed his ninth assist.

The Bulls responded less than two minutes later when Jack Campion got the equalizer, but the Wings responded two minutes later themselves when Campbell found himself on a breakaway and slid the puck five-hole between Bulls netminder Kyle Kozma at the 4:32 mark. It was his second point in the period and 14th goal on the season, while Parks Wallace picked up his fourth assist.

All three first period goals were scored in the first five minutes, and the Wings came out swinging, outshooting North Iowa 13-4.

It was the Bulls who got the quick goal to open the second period when Hunter Bulger scored just 47 seconds in. The Wings seemed to slow down offensively, allowing North Iowa more shots and losing the pace of the game. At the 18:48 mark, the Bulls got the go-ahead goal they were looking for from Byron Hartley and, after outshooting the Wings 16-12, skated into final break with the 3-2 lead.

“We want to score first and we want to score last, and we did that,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said. “Our first period was good, I liked it. After the media timeout in the second we had a good six minutes, but before that we let a lot of momentum get away from us, and that has to stop.”

The Bulls killed off two penalties in the final period and Kozma stood tall in net, denying several opportunistic Wings chances. With time ticking down, Neilson applied heavy pressure in front of the North Iowa net, forcing a turnover and tucking the puck between Kozma’s legs to tie the game at three apiece at the 17:33 mark. The unassisted goal was his 19th on the season. And when the final buzzer sounded, the teams headed into extra hockey.

The Bulls controlled the overtime face-off and skated into the Wings zone, but Aberdeen forced a turnover and Neilson skated in on a breakaway but fired his shot over the net. The Wings maintained control of the puck and sent it to Neilson once again, who danced between the circles and fired the puck into the back of the net just 43 seconds into the bonus hockey period. His second goal of the game was his 20th overall, while defenseman Will Gilson added his twelfth assist on the season.

Despite the second period slump, Jennings was pleased with his team’s tenacity and ability to dig themselves out of a hole and find a way to come out with the win.

“Seamus had a great start to the game, adding two points in the opening period,” he said. “Gaffney getting us on the board was big. But the big story was Neilson, bouncing back from taking a couple of big hits. He carried the game on his back and solved it for us. That’s what leaders do.”

Thanks to a strong third period, Aberdeen outshot North Iowa 41-29 overall, killing three penalties in the process and maintaining their status as the league’s top penalty-killing unit. They went 0-4 on the power play despite several great chances, but Jennings said the coaching staff was pleased with the overall effort and knew that a physical matchup would come their way.

“It was tense. The physicality is important and with a team like this, you need to be able to slow them down,” he said. “Getting in their way and disrupting their flow and getting heavy with them; I thought we did a really good job with that.”

Orosz denied 26 of the 29 shots sent his way for his sixth win of the season. Both Campbell and Neilson recorded two-point games, and the Wings remain in third place in the division. But they’ll face the Bulls once again tomorrow, looking to grab the weekend sweep and two more coveted league points.

“We can’t have any lapses,” Jennings said ahead of Saturday’s rematch. “They’re going to get a little deeper overnight and we have to be ready to go tomorrow. We can’t have a lapse like we did to start the second period.”

Doors open at the Odde at 5:30 p..m. Saturday night with the puck hitting the ice at 7:15 p.m. Wings fans can purchase their tickets ahead of the game online at or at the door. Join us for our Early Valentine’s Day special: purchase a general admission ticket at the door at regular price and get a second ticket for just $5. Wings fans can also purchase $10 general admission tickets ahead of the game at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.

Boy Scout Troop 359 will be our guests inside the AutoMaxx Party Deck as they also present the color guard for the game’s national anthem. We also welcome Siouxland Thunder Sled Hockey — fans can try sled hockey for free on Saturday afternoon from 4:30-6:30 p.m. inside the Holum Expo Building, then watch a demonstration during the game’s first intermission and stay for a live scrimmage immediately following Saturday’s game.

The Wings will head back to Minot on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18-19 and wrap the month at home again, this time welcoming the Minotauros back to the Odde Ice Center on Feb. 25-26.