The Aberdeen Wings got the lead early and never looked back Friday night in Bismarck, skating to a 6-4 win over the Bobcats at the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck.
It was the first of four consecutive matchups between the two teams over two home-and-home weekends.
The Wings got on the board first at the 4:18 mark in the first period when Ronan Walsh took a pass in the circle and fired a rocket past Bismarck goaltender Aksel Reid. The early goal was Walsh’s fourth goal on the season, while Cade Neilson racked up his 13th assist and Hugo Allais grabbed his fourth.
Five minutes later, the Wings passed the puck around to Devon Carlstrom, who fired from the hashmarks towards the net, where Kyle Gaffney was there to tip it in to give the Wings the 2-0 lead. Gaffney notched his second goal of the year, while Carlstrom picked up his fourth assist and Patrick O’Connell got his third.
But the Wings weren’t done yet. Less than 30 seconds later, the Wings found themselves on the penalty kill — but just 21 seconds into the kill, Will Gilson stole the puck, skated into the Bismarck zone and fired the puck past Reid for his first North American Hockey League goal, giving his team the 3-0 lead.
Bismarck got one back late in the period when Eddie Shepler snuck one past Wings netminder Dominik Wasik at the 17:12 mark, but after outshooting the Bobcats 13-8 in the opening period — and each team killing a penalty — the Wings took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Wanting to get out quickly in the middle stanza, Walsh got his second of the night and fifth on the season just 1:29 into the second when he skated in and fired another rocket into the top corner. Landry Schmuck grabbed his third apple on the year, while Neilson notched his 14th.
The Wings killed another penalty in the middle period before Patrick Johnson got Bismarck on the board again at the 16:02 mark. Shortly after, the teams traded penalties and played four-on-four hockey, with the Wings picking up another penalty and killing off a three-on-four attack for 20 seconds. After Bismarck edged out the Wings in shots on goal 11-10, the teams headed into the final break with Aberdeen leading 4-2.
Similar to the first two periods, it was the Wings who struck first in the final stanza when Anthony Galante took a pass in the middle of the Bismarck zone at the 7:10 mark and fired it into the back of the net for his first goal as an Aberdeen Wing. Parks Wallace notched his second assist, while Neilson got his third assist of the game and 15th overall.
Down 5-2 with ten minutes in the game remaining, Bismarck fired back, scoring two goals to bring the score within one. The first came at the 10:07 mark from Quinn Rudrud, and the second was just over two minutes later at the 12:34 mark from Aiden VanRooyan. Leading by one goal, Aberdeen continued to apply the pressure — and it paid off when Hugo Allais skated up through the middle and took a pass from Seamus Campbell to put his team back up by two at the 13:41 mark. It was Allais’ third goal on the year, while Campbell grabbed his sixth assist and Owen DuBois picked up his eighth.
Bismarck pulled Reid from between the pipes with just under three minutes remaining in the game, but solid Wings defense prevailed and Aberdeen skated to the 6-4 victory.
“It was great to get the early jump,” head coach Steve Jennings said after the game. “We’ve been talking about staying with the game to the end. Teams will always push back, so finding a way was important to night. While we bent with the pressure tonight, was was good to see the kids fight through it and not break.”
Overall, Aberdeen outshot Bismarck 29-24, going 0-2 on the power play while also killing off all three Bobcat penalties. Wasik denied 20 of the 24 shots he faced to grab his fifth win of the season.
Neilson led all Wings scorers, picking up three points with his three assists. Walsh notched two goals, while Allais grabbed a goal and and assist. Overall, twelve Wings players added points tonight, something Jennings is happy to see at this point in the season.
“Now we’re starting to see what we can be,” he said. “As more of them get involved, it makes it more difficult for teams to key in on an individual or two.”
And he is looking forward to that continuing into Saturday’s game against the Bobcats.
“Our leaders did a very good job showing the way to our younger guys tonight,” he said.
Doors open at the Odde Ice Center at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, with the puck dropping at 7:15 p.m. As part of our Veterans Appreciation game, all military veterans will receive free admission at the door with valid ID. Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game at tickets.AberdeenWings.com or at the door. $10 general admission tickets are also available at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.
We welcome Dacotah Bank as the game’s corporate sponsor inside the AutoMaxx Party Deck, and invite fans to Skate with the Wings following the game.