Aberdeen Wings head coach Scott Langer spent 10 years as an assistant coach for the Bismarck Bobcats in the team's infancy. He's well aware the VFW Sports Center is unfriendly territory for visiting teams.
Thus, he appreciates even more what his team accomplished in Saturday's 5-3 road victory over the Bobcats.
"We're battling Bismarck for a playoff spot, and it's not easy to win here," Langer said after the Wings completed a weekend sweep of the Bobcats.
Aberdeen won 2-1 at home on Friday.
The setback was a costly one for the Bobcats, who had won five of six games before the weekend began.
Bismarck lost forwards Nick Alexander and Kevin Ness to game misconduct penalties and defenseman Tanner Vescio to injury. Vescio suffered a concussion and broken nose in the first period. Alexander and Ness will have to miss the Friday game in next week's two-game series at Brookings.
The Bobcats dominated the second period, outshooting the Wings 14-4, scoring twice and taking a 3-2 lead. Goals by Matthew Barry and Tobias Fladeby enabled the hosts to overcome a 2-1 first-period deficit.
Aberdeen launched its third-period comeback with a goal by Colton Fletcher with just 15 seconds expired. Just over four minutes later, Tyler Bossert put the Wings ahead to stay, stealing the puck at the blue line and scoring a shorthanded goal for a 4-3 lead.
Kevin Fitzgerald hit an empty net from short range with 1:16 to play to complete a three-goal evening.
The Wings proved to be outstanding opportunists, coming away with a victory despite a 32-22 shortfall in shots on net.
"I thought our goaltender (Forbes Ploszaj) kept us in there when he needed to, and our power play was very important tonight," Langer observed. "... Bismarck came out with a lot of energy and purpose and we found a way."
"This was our third game in three nights, so we were dealing with limited energy level. We had to do the little things right," Langer continued.
The victory gives Aberdeen a 6-1-1 edge in the season series, a far cry from last season when the Wings went winless against the Bobcats.
Although Langer coached last season at Topeka, he said he's well aware of the difficulties the Wings have had with Bismarck in the past.
"That domination (the Bobcats) had last year is very much with this team," he said.
With the setback, the Bobcats slipped to 18-21-1 with 37 points. Aberdeen improved to 18-18-3 for 39 points. Bismarck has 20 games remaining and the Wings have 21 on the schedule.
Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie said his team wasn't overwhelmed on Saturday.
"We deserved better," he said. "We outplayed them, that's for sure."
Sedevie said Saturday's loss definitely didn't represent a step backward in the quest for a playoff spot.
"You saw a team go out, face adversity and fight to compete. That's all I can ask out of my guys," he noted.
There were just two even-strength goals scored in the game. Each team scored two power play goals, and the Wings picked up shorthanded and empty-net goals.