After 23 games in the 2021-22 season, the Aberdeen Wings finally found the elusive shutout they were looking for, skating to a 3-0 win over the Central Division’s top-ranked Austin Bruins Friday night.
The Wings have had a fairly successful season on the road, going 8-3 away from the Odde Ice Center. They improve to 12-10-0-1 after the win, while Austin (now 13-8-1-2) still sits at the top of the division — but just four points now separate the division’s top four teams.
Friday’s first period was a fairly tame one — the Wings killed one penalty and were edged out in shots 13-10, and the teams were still tied at zero heading into the first break.
The teams traded penalties twice to start the middle stanza, playing four-on-four hockey twice before the halfway mark in the period. But Aberdeen broke the seal at the 12:19 mark when Seamus Campbell grabbed the puck behind the net and skated it in and around Bruins goaltender Klayton Knapp, sliding it past the pads to get his team on the board. It was Campbell’s fifth goal of the season, while David Grosek and Mason Kelly each grabbed their first assists of the season.
Each team killed off a penalty to round out the second period, but the Wings doubled Austin’s shots on goal, taking twelve shots while holding the Bruins to just six. The Wings headed into the final break with the one-goal lead and started the third period with 1:25 left on their second power play of the game.
The Bruins killed off that penalty, too, and found themselves with a two-man advantage about eight minutes into the period. But the Wings killed off a 40-second five-on-three chance before an Austin penalty that lead to more four-on-four hockey, and going on the power play once again.
About 15 seconds later, Cade Neilson skated the puck into the Bruins’ zone and dropped a pass to Kyle Gaffney, who toe-dragged around his defender and shot it past Knapp to give the Wings the 2-0 lead at the 9:55 mark. It was the Wings captain’s third goal on the year, while Neilson racked up his league-leading 25th assist and Campbell got his eighth.
Just over halfway through the period, the Wings found themselves on an extended kill after a five-minute major penalty — but they killed off the attack, even managing to take a few shorthanded shots in the process.
With over three minutes still remaining on the clock, the Bruins pulled Knapp from between the pipes to gain the extra attacker. But the Wings stole the puck and got it to Neilson, who fired a shot from center ice that cruised into the back of the net at the 16:53 mark. The empty-netter was his twelfth on the season, and Hugo Allais picked up his seventh assist and Ronan Walsh nabbed his fourth. The Bruins tried to claw back but took a five-minute penalty of their own, and the Wings took the 3-0 win.
Overall, the Wings edged out the Bruins in shots with 35 overall, while Aberdeen netminder Greg Orosz denied all 33 chances he saw en route to his second consecutive win and the team’s first shutout of the year.
“He was exactly what we needed tonight,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said of his goalie. “He made some big saves and settled the play. I was very happy to see him take that step.”
Aberdeen went 1-4 against the league’s top penalty kill unit and held the Bruins to 0-5 on their power play.
“It was a very important element for us tonight,” Jennings said of his special teams. “We needed a difference maker and the power play delivered for us. The penalty kill was very strong and they really stepped up for us. The major kill was tremendous for us.”
Neilson, who was recently named the NAHL’s Forward of the Month for November, continues to dominate the ice. Friday’s assist was his 18th in the last eleven consecutive games, and he has 24 points in that same span. Friday’s goal was his fifth in the last five games, and he’s now had seven consecutive multi-point games, leading to 37 points overall on the season.
Overall, Jennings was very happy with his team’s energy and tenacity in finding another road win.
“It was big. We needed that,” he said. “Greg showed some great focus. The energy didn’t start great but it built throughout the game. It was what we needed.”
They’ll look to carry that energy into Saturday’s rematch agains the Bruins inside Riverside Arena in Austin; the puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login, or at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all away Wings games. The game’s audio is broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.