For the second time in as many games, the Aberdeen Wings found themselves facing a shootout to decide their fate.
And after goaltender Dominik Wasik denied all three St. Cloud chances, the Wings skated to the 3-2 win inside the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex, ending a four-game Norsemen win streak in the process.
It was an interesting opening period in St. Cloud, with lopsided scoring chances in favor of the Norsemen but Aberdeen with the point advantage. After a Norseman penalty just over six minutes into the game, Cade Neilson grabbed a pass from Kyle Gaffney and fired from inside the circle for a power play goal and the 1-0 lead at the 7:11 mark. Neilson racked up his 15th goal on the season, while Gaffney got his 16th assist and Jacob Bosse grabbed his 14th.
After the goal, the Wings had to turn on the defense after picking up four penalties, the first two happening 50 seconds apart. But the Wings killed off 1:09 of 5-on-3 hockey and another 45 seconds of 5-on-4. They killed another penalty and found themselves headed into the second period shorthanded once again. Because of the amount of time they spent in the penalty box, St. Cloud outshot them 16-6 in the opening period, but the Wings had the one-goal lead heading into the first break.
Aberdeen killed off the penalty to start the middle stanza, finding themselves playing half a minute of 4-on-4 hockey before finally finding themselves with the extra attacker. St. Cloud thwarted that attack and one other to start the period, but the strong offensive line that keeps delivering for Aberdeen struck again later in the period. That’s when Bosse grabbed the puck at the center line and skated into St. Cloud’s zone, centering the puck for Ronan Walsh, who buried it in the back door for the 2-0 lead at the 13:41 mark. Walsh notched his twelfth goal of the season, while Bosse got his second assist of the game, 15th overall, and Neilson added his NAHL-leading 28th.
The Norsemen struck back just over a minute later — Wasik made a great initial save on a shot from between the circles but Blake Perbix came crashing into the crease and picked up the rebound to put his team back within one at the 14:54 mark. Shots on goal weighed in Aberdeen’s favor in the second period, with the Wings outshooting the Norsemen 12-6, and skated into the final intermission still with a one-goal lead.
St. Cloud tied things up at the 4:34 mark with a shorthanded goal from Nik Hong. Wasik made a great save just over halfway through the period, denying a breakaway and keeping the score tied at two. Overall in the period, the Wings got off just five shots, but St. Cloud was held to eight, even with another late-period Wings penalty kill, but the one that went in was the one that sent the game to extra hockey.
The Wings started the overtime period with strong puck possession, not allowing the Norsemen to have control until over a minute into extra time. Defense was key for both teams, with Aberdeen only managing one shot in five minutes, while the Norsemen had three chances. Two of those chances came in overtime’s final minute — but Wasik denied another breakaway chance and a tight-shot from inside his crease, coming up big both times to send the game to a shootout.
First shooters Landry Schmuck and St. Cloud’s Blake Perbix were each denied. Aberdeen’s second shooter, Seamus Campbell, skated in and fired from between the circles, going top-shelf and sending Norsemen goaltender Ethan Dahlmeir’s water bottle flying. Wasik then denied Ryan O’Neill, but third shooter Neilson failed to score, too. Wasik faced Brandon Lajoie but sticked the puck aside, effectively dying all three Norsemen chances and helping his team to the 3-2 victory.
Overall, St. Cloud outshot the Wings 33-25, with Wasik denying 31 en route to his seventh win of the season. Aberdeen’s went 1-5 on the power play, pushing their streak to seven power play goals in the last seven games. They also killed off all five Norsemen power plays, improving their league-leading kill percentage to 91 percent.
Wings head coach Steve Jennings liked the game’s energy, and felt his team directed the tempo of the game well.
“The first period penalties disrupted the flow pretty well, but killing them off — including the 5-on-3 — gave us some energy,” he said. “I thought the pace of the game was good. I didn’t feel like we got to a point where we were chasing the game.”
He also commended his team’s ability to prevent the Norsemen from taking quality shots.
“It was critical,” he said of his team’s defense. “Shot blocking is an important part of our defensive game and we were good at it tonight, both on the kill and at even strength. Dom made some very big saves and was there for us when we did have break downs.”
After 27 games, Neilson notched his 15th multi-point game of the year, with his goal and assist adding two more points to his league-leading 43 overall points. Bosse also added two points to his total, while Walsh picked up his third goal in the last two games.
The rematch between the two teams happens Saturday night on St. Cloud’s home ice once again with a puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings, the official home for all Wings away games. The game’s audio is broadcast over Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.
As for Coach Jennings, he’d like to see the same type of game play as they head into their final game before the holiday break.
“I’d like to see them come back out tomorrow and play the same way,” he said. “Our compete was good tonight and we need that again.”