It took 101 games as an Aberdeen Wing, but defenseman assistant captain Trevor Russell finally got his first goal Saturday night in a 3-2 win over the St. Cloud Norsemen in Alexandria, MN.
What’s more, Jake Sibell earned his 40th win of the season in the Wings’ sweep the Norsemen, holding onto his position as the league’s top goalie and helping his team improve to 95 points with four games left to play in the regular season.
St. Cloud got on the board first when Ryan O’Neill snuck one past Sibell at the 3:34 mark in the first period. Aberdeen outshot the Norsemen 10-7, but St. Cloud skated into the first break with the 1-0 cushion.
Just over a minute into the second period, Russell got his elusive goal — a spectacular screen from Payton Matsui gave Russell the go-ahead to fire from the perimeter and tie the game 1-1, with assists going to Kyle Gaffney and Kevin MacKay, who notched his second apple of the weekend and 13th overall. However, the Norsemen responded less than four minutes later with O’Neill’s second goal of the night. St. Cloud outshot the Wings in the middle period 12-10 and headed into the final break with the one-point cushion once again.
The momentum shifted in Aberdeen’s favor around seven minutes into the third — that’s when Matsui was awarded a penalty shot and snuck one past Norsemen goalie Josh Langford. With the game tied 2-2, both teams stayed out of the penalty box and kept firing at each other’s nets. At the 12:30 mark, Matsui found the back door for the game-winner, his second of the night and 26th of the season. Russell notched his 30th assist of the season and Gaffney picked up his second of the night and 17th overall. Aberdeen held off a six-man attack and earned the win when the final horn sounded.
“The momentum shift was the play of Payton Matsui,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said after the game. “He refused to lose that game. His passion to win is at another level.”
Matsui’s two-point night ties him for first place in the goals category with 26 and fourth in the assist column with 33 (captain Clay Cosentino holds the top spot with 40). The Alaska-Fairbanks commit leads all NAHL scorers with 59 total points in 52 games played.
Langer also gave credit to Trevor Russell, who’s in ninth place in the assist column with 30, and was happy to see him get his first goal behind him.
“He has accomplished a lot for the Wings and to see him get that goal was huge for this team,” he said.
Overall, the Wings outshot the Norsemen 32-29 — Langford stopped 29 shots while Sibell denied 27, maintaining a 1.21 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. Neither team found success on the power play, with Aberdeen going 0-5 and St. Cloud going 0-3.
The race for a playoff spot is still alive in the Central Division, with four teams within ten points of each other, and the bottom three teams — Minnesota Wilderness, Austin Bruins and St. Cloud Norsemen — within three points of each other.
The Wings will face one of those teams next weekend when they travel to the Northwoods Credit Union Arena to face the Wilderness on Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8; puck drops at 7:15 p.m. both nights. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen. The game’s audio is always broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock.