The Aberdeen Wings rang in the new year with a weekend sweep over the visiting St. Cloud Norsemen, taking a 2-1 victory Saturday night inside the Odde Ice Center.
The big win came after a 5-3 win on Friday, and the Wings took home four coveted league points in a very tight Central Division.
Things started off very slowly for Aberdeen — in fact, the Norsemen took nine shots before the Wings were able to fire one. But after killing off their second penalty in the opening period, Chase Davis came out of the box and immediately tapped the puck up the ice to Cade Neilson, who tore off on a breakaway and beat St. Cloud netminder Ethan Dahlmeir on the backhand on the Wings’ first shot of the game at the 12:21 mark. Neilson, playing in his first game since the holiday break, notched his 16th goal of the season, while Davis grabbed his seventh assist.
The Norsemen tied things up at the 18:49 mark when Ryan O’Neill found the open backdoor. Aberdeen killed off three penalties in the first period and were outshot 15-3, but nonetheless skated into the first break looking at a tie game.
Aberdeen got a few more shots off on goal to start the middle stanza after a Norsemen penalty. With just over 30 seconds remaining on the power play, Hugo Allais fed the puck from the blue line to Seamus Campbell, who fired from the middle of the circle over the shoulder of Dahlmeir. It was Campbell’s second goal on the weekend, his ninth overall, while Allais grabbed his ninth assist and Landry Schmuck tallied his sixth.
Each team killed off another penalty during the period and the Wings closed the gap in shots on goal, taking 14 while holding St. Cloud to just seven. With 22 seconds remaining in the period, Will Diamond received two stacked penalties totaling seven minutes. The Wings killed off the penalty to head into the final break with the 2-1 lead, but faced over six-and-a-half minutes to kill to open the final period.
The Wings killed the penalty for three minutes before St. Cloud took a penalty of their own, leading to four-on-four hockey for two minutes. After the Norsemen returned to full strength, the Wings’ top penalty-killing unit finished their job flawlessly. That was the only penalty in the third period, and the Wings held off a final extra-man advantage when Dahlmeir was pulled from between the pipes with two minutes left in regulation.
“It was absolutely monstrous, especially the duration that we went through at the end of the second and into the third,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said of his special teams unit. “They had the opportunity to build momentum but our guys rose to the occasion. Our power play goal, getting back into our normal, was really important for us. Game winner.”
When the dust settled, the Wings went 1-2 on the power play while holding the Norsemen to 0-6 and improving to a league-high 90.9 percent on the kill.
Overall, St. Cloud outshot the Wings 34-27. Dominik Wasik was solid in net for Aberdeen, denying 33 of the 34 shots sent his way.
“Dom was tremendous tonight,” Jennings said. “He gave us the game we needed. We didn’t play badly, but just didn’t make plays with little offensive zone time making it hard for ourselves. Dom rose to the occasion and gave us the chance to stay in it.”
The Wings improved to 16-12-0-2 on the year and grabbed their second home sweep of the season. Getting back into the win column — twice — in front of their home crowd was something Jennings was very happy to see.
“We talked to the kids about how this weekend was big,” he said. “Reestablishing and getting guys comfortable winning at home, and sweeping a team who has games in hand on us, was huge. It was great.”
Over the weekend, Campbell notched two goals (both game-winners), as did Owen Dubois, while Davis and Kyle Gaffney notched two assists apiece. Landry Schmuck recorded three points with a goal and two assists. Thirteen different Wings players added points to their name, while Wasik stopped an impressive 68-72. Neilson remains the NAHL’s top points-earner with 44 points, which come from 16 goals and 28 assists.
But coach Jennings wanted to applaud one name that wasn’t on the score sheet.
“Jaxon Grosdidier is a tendered player who will be here next year,” he said of the 2004 forward from Sioux Falls, SD. “He had some big hits, high energy on the bench and set up some great scoring opportunities. He was great.”
The Wings hit the road to face the North Iowa Bulls on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 7-8. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings, the official home for all Wings away games. Fans can listen to the game’s audio on Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock. They’ll return to the Odde on Friday, Jan. 14 to host the Bismarck Bobcats before traveling to North Dakota to face them on Jan. 15.
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