In an exciting come-from-behind victory, the Aberdeen Wings kept their perfect road record after defeating the Minot Minotauros 4-3 Saturday night inside Maysa Arena, effectively sweeping the weekend.
The Wings are fairly used to getting on the board first, but they found themselves playing catchup several times throughout the game. Saturday’s matchup started in typical Wings fashion when Spencer Schneider picked up the rebound in front of the Minot goaltender on the power play to put the Wings up 1-0 at the halfway point in the first period. He was assisted on by Payton Matsui, who notched his 27th assist on the season, and Nico deVita, who grabbed his 24th.
Minot answered back with just less than two minutes in the period on a goal from Jay Buchholz. With the Wings outshooting the Minotauros 16-9, the teams headed into the first break tied 1-1.
Minot used their momentum heading into the second period to give themselves the lead at the 6:13 mark on a goal from Blaine Warnert. At the 8:41 mark and on the power play once again, Aberdeen tied things up again when Thomas Manty weaved through the traffic to score his second goal on the weekend off a pass from Cade Neilson.
Tied 2-2 with five minutes left in the period, Minot’s Damon Zimmer scored on the power play to give the Minotauros the lead. Aberdeen edged out Minot in shots on goal in the second 13-10, but the Minotauros had the 3-2 cushion heading into the final period.
Down a goal and needing to level the score, Aberdeen started the third with a two-man disadvantage and an opportunity for Minot to widen the gap. However, the Wings killed the two penalties in the opening minutes and Manty eventually answered back on the power play at the 7:40 mark in the third, scoring his third of the weekend and 23rd on the season off a feed from Will Arquiett and Trevor Russell, who picked up his 25th assist of the season.
Tied at three apiece, Aberdeen tipped the score in their favor when Natan Vertes took advantage of a turnover to snag his 16th goal on the year, giving the Wings the 4-3 edge. He was assisted by Liam Fraser and Neilson, who picked up his 26th assist. Each team killed one more penalty in the third and Minot pulled goalie Keenan Rancier to give themselves the man advantage, but Aberdeen held on for the win and the two coveted points.
Aberdeen outshot Minot once again in the third, taking 15 shots compared to just six from Minot, and overall outshot the Minotauros 44 to 25. The high amount of shots on goal has played heavily into Aberdeen’s success this season.
“It’s almost like a war of attrition when you think about it,” Wings assistant coach Michael Hill said. “Put stress on the opposing goaltender and keep finding ways to get better scoring chances is big.”
An effective power play unit and solid goaltending lended to the Wings’ success and helped them improve to 35-2-0-1 on the season. Aberdeen held Minot to just one of seven on the power play while going three of four themselves. Those goals proved to be important in Saturday’s tight matchup.
“Big time goals,” Hill agreed. “Our power play has really taken advantage of the situation that gets presented to them. I’m very proud of their compete level and ability to be relied on.”
Minot’s Rancier stopped 40 of 44 shots sent his way, while Wings goalie Jake Sibell batted away 22 of 25. He continues to sit at the top of the NAHL’s top goalie list with a 1.13 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage.
Matsui sits at the top of the league’s top scorers list, racking up 46 points so far this season. Captain Clay Cosentino is right behind him with 44 points, and Manty’s five-point weekend propelled him into the league’s fifth spot with 42 points.
The Wings hit the road for the final time this month when they travel to face the Minnesota Wilderness on March 26 and 27. After a long stretch of away games, Hill said the team will refocus for another weekend on the road.
“We’ll take it one day at a time by doing the right things on and off the ice,” he said.
Wings fans can catch all away games using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen. As always, the game’s audio is broadcast over Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.