Aberdeen’s courageous three-goal comeback in the third period delayed, but did not deny a Bismarck Bobcats victory on Saturday night.
The Bobcats, who saw a 4-1 lead disappear in the final eight minutes of the third period, came back to claim a 5-4 victory on Tobias Fladeby’s shootout goal at the VFW Sports Center.
With the triumph, the Bobcats gained further momentum in their quest for a NAHL Central Division playoff berth. Bismarck, now 22-24-2, has 46 points. Fourth-place Aberdeen picked up one point in the shootout loss to improve to 23-21-4 for 50 points. Each team has a dozen regular season games remaining.
Fladeby, who scored the Bobcats’ first and final goals of the night, was patient as he went to work on Wings goalie Arttu Kulmala in the shootout, holding the puck until he was almost on top of the net.
“I tried to freeze the goalie and make him make the first move,” Fladeby said.
Once Kulmala committed himself, Fladeby tucked the puck between the netminer’s legs for his 24th tally of the season.
A lot went wrong for the Bobcats in the waning minutes of the third period. Lukas Millenn and Nick Alexander scored in the first half of the session to give the hosts a seemingly safe 4-1 lead.
However, the Wings wouldn't back down. Tyler Bossert and Kevin Fitzgerald scored just over three minutes apart to slice the deficit to 4-3 with 4:41 remaining.
It appeared Cooper Harr had given the Bobcats a badly-needed buffer goal with 3:05 on the clock on a shorthanded breakaway, flying over Kulmala after scoring. However, the goal was disallowed, and the score remained 4-3.
“He (the referee) gave me no explanation,” Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie said.
Thirty five seconds later, Aberdeen’s Gage Mackie scored the equalizer, firing a shot through traffic in the midst of a flurry in front of the net.
Aberdeen generated the game’s only shot over the final 2:30 and the game went into overtime.
Bismarck killed a penalty in the five-minute overtime to keep things even at 4-4 even though Aberdeen enjoyed a 5-0 shot advantage in the extra session.
Isokangas stood tall in the shootout, turning away Fitzgerald with a blocker save, Logan Jenuwine with a stick save and Bossert with a diving save on the right post.
Alexander came up empty against Kulmala, but Fladeby, the Bobcats’ second shooter, took care of business.
“This is big. We were able to fight back and get two points,” Fladeby said. “It’s important for us to find ways to just keep working.”
Sedevie was animated in his praise of his team.
“For 55 minutes we dominated the game. Getting two points tonight is the bottom line,” he observed.
The Bobcats took a 2-1 first-period lead and the middle session was scoreless.
Bismarck could have come out of the first period with a 2-0 lead had it not made some mischief for itself.
Leading 1-0 on an early goal by Fladeby, the Bobcats took two penalties – a major and game ejection on Jordan Fralich and an interference call on Zach Kennedy – in 54 seconds.
Twelve seconds after the call on Fralich, the Bobcats struck for a shorthanded goal, Jared Resseguie scoring on a 2-on-break with Nick Alexander at the 8:54 mark.
Aberdeen responded with the Bobcats still two men short, Mackie slipping in a rebound with 9:21 remaining in the first period. The Wings managed just two more shots in the three minutes before Fralich’s major expired.
The scoreless second period consisted of two distinct parts. Aberdeen dominated the first 12 minutes, outshooting the Bobcats 8-0, but to no avail as Severi Isokangas stood firm.
Bismarck outshot the visitors 6-1 over the final eight minutes of the period, finally taking flight when Aberdeen defenseman Andrew Sinard took a cross-checking penalty with 8:27 remaining in the period.
The Bobcats generated three excellent scoring chances while Sinard sat in the penalty box. Wings goalie Arttu Kulmala made what appeared to be a mask save on a drive by Tristan Ashbrook and came back to make a left skate save on a Fladeby shot a minute later. Ten seconds after being denied by Kulmala, Fladeby hit a pipe with 7:01 left in the second period.
Up next for the Bobcats is a two-game weekend series with Central Division-leading Minot at the VFW Sports Center.