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Bismarck’s Zach Kennedy fights for the puck with Aberdeen’s Jack Kelly behind the Aberdeen goal during the first period on Friday. Looking on is Bobcats Mitch Walinski.

WILL KINCAID, Tribune

A third period that produced more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker dance marathon enabled the Bismarck Bobcats to eke out a 4-2 victory over visiting Aberdeen on Friday.

The Bobcats, up 1-0 entering the final 20 minutes, gave up the lead as the Wings fired in two power-play goals. Bismarck then rescued the game with two extra-man markers.

“We went from having the lead to thinking we weren’t going to get any points. Then we come back and get two power-play goals,” said Layne Sedevie, the Bobcats head coach and general manager. “At the end of the day we had to find an answer and find a way.”

The wild third period featured five goals, four on the power play, and 27 minutes in penalties.

Aberdeen’s Carson Dimoff tied the game at 5:52 of the third period, scoring a power play goal from short range on a nifty feed from behind the net by Kevin Fitzgerald. The Wings took the lead just over two minutes later when Joey Strada scored from the slot, also on a power play.

With their backs to the wall, the Bobcats got a big break – and took advantage of it.

Aberdeen’s Gage Mackie went off on a holding call at 9:50 and, 14 seconds later, Wings goalie Forbes Ploszaj was whistled for a spearing major and an accompanying game misconduct.

Bismarck immediately responded. Jordan Fralich beat replacement netminder Arttu Kulmala with a high blast from the top of the slot with the Wings two men short. Twenty-five seconds later Nick Alexander found the range on a low shot from the top of the slot with 9:07 on the clock to put the Bobcats ahead 3-2.

The Cats got their final goal with 41 seconds remaining when Cooper Harr was tripped from behind while breaking in on an empty net.

Bismarck’s offense recovered from a slow first period to keep Ploszaj busy in the second period. The Bobcats outshot the Wings 11-4, but came up empty.

Aberdeen had the best opportunity of the middle period, narrowly missing the equalizer when Colin Raver got a clean break on Bobcats goalie Severi Isokangas. Isokangas stopped Ravers’ low shot with his pads. Raver stayed with the puck, slipping the rebound over the goal line. The goal was disallowed, though, officials ruling the play had been blown dead before the score with 3:09 on the clock.

A couple of minutes earlier, Isokangas survived another test when Dimoff slipped past the defense for a close-in shot. Isokangas made the play, and Logan Britt’s rebound went wide.

The Bobcats, with a big boost from Isokangas, escaped the first period with a 1-0 lead.

Aberdeen allowed minimal penetration of its zone while building a 13-3 shot advantage. However, Bismarck’s first shot of the night eluded Ploszaj as Matt Barry connected from the top of the slot at the 5:16 mark.

Isokangas kept the Bobcats afloat through two Aberdeen power play opportunities in which he stopped four shots.

Aberdeen’s best first-period opportunities were by Carter Roo, who got loose on the right wing two minutes into the game, and Colton Fletcher, who had a clear shot from the top of the slot with 4:35 to play. Isokangas thwarted both with glove saves.

With the win, the Bobcats escaped the NAHL’s Central Division Cellar, moving past Austin with 44 points. Next in line in the pursuit of a playoff berth is Aberdeen with 49 points. Aberdeen and Bismarck, who hit the VFW Sports Center ice again at 7:15 tonight, each have 13 regular season games remaining.

The Wings will have to play tonight without Ploszaj, due to Friday’s game misconduct. Bismarck defenseman Noah Bormann, who was banished early in the third period for checking from behind, will be able to return.

Sedevie gave his team credit for hanging tough in the face of Aberdeen’s third-period comeback.

“To me, that’s character and a little resilience. We found a way to get two points (in the standings) and not give them any points. That’s huge,” Sedevie observed.

Tonight’s game will be the final regular season clash between the Wings and Cats. Aberdeen holds a 6-4-1 in the season series.

(Steve Thomas is a Bismarck Tribune sportswriter).

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Sports Reporter