Friday night began with the hoisting of the 2015-2016 Central Division championship banner and ended with a Bismarck Bobcats victory over the Austin Bruins. Tobias Fladeby recorded a pair of power play goals, Parker Mismash scored the game-winner and the Bobcats defeated the Bruins 5-4 in a thriller at the VFW Sports Center.
“I thought we played probably the best period we have played all year during the first period,” Bobcats coach Layne Sedevie said. “Then I thought Austin was better during the second. The thing we’re looking for right now is consistency, but for the fans, that was definitely a good show.”
The Bobcats offense got off to a hot start, but Austin goaltender Jake Kucharski held strong until the closing moments of the first period. Kucharski, who entered the matchup having allowed only nine goals on 131 shots faced, turned away 18 consecutive Bobcat shots on goal before Jared Ressigue finally found the back of the net.
Austin forward Will Reedy was sent to the box on a cross-checking minor, opening the door for the Bobcats power play to go to work. With time running down in the period, Bismarck opened fire on Kucharski. The Bruins goaltender turned back the initial shot attempt, but Ressigue was there to clean it up with a mid-air deflection to open up a 1-0 lead with only four seconds left on the clock.
Taking advantage of the opportunities the Bruins gave them continued to be a theme during the second period. Austin forward Logan Haskins earned himself two minutes in the box for slashing, and the Bobcats power play unit took the ice once again seeking a two-goal advantage. Bismarck’s special teams unit took care of business almost instantly, as Mismash fed Fladeby for his third goal of the young season.
The Bobcats’ second goal of the evening woke up the Bruins offense, however. Austin, which fired 13 shots at Haugenoe during the second period, received back-to-back goals from forwards Jon Richards and Travis Kothenbeutel to close out the second period with the game knotted at two scores apiece.
Austin continued its offensive surge into the third period, as Logan Haskins scored to break the tie just 43 seconds into game’s final 20-minute session. After allowing three unanswered goals, the Bobcats finally responded with a score of their own. Matthew Berry found Patrick O’Connor in front of the Bruins net, and O’Connor posted his first goal of the year.
“That third goal was huge for us,” Sedevie said. “It’s a game of momentum, and they had it. For us to answer and then get a power play marker, you know, that was just huge. I think we have good character, and tonight we showed a little bit of resiliency.”
Moments after O’Connor tied the game up at 3-3 on Bismarck’s only five-on-five goal of the night, Fladeby buried his second power play goal to take advantage of yet another Bruins penalty.
After Haskins retied the game at four goals apiece, Jason Koehn and the Bruins made the same mistake yet again – bringing the Bobcats’ power play unit onto the ice. Mismash converted the opportunity yet again for Bismarck, opening up a 5-4 lead with the team’s fourth power play goal in seven attempts.
“I hate to say it, we didn’t play the best during the Showcase, but our power play has been good all year,” Sedevie said. “I think we have good skill, we can make plays and we have some guys who have bought into their in net front and all the things make a good power play. It was the difference in the game tonight, that’s for sure.”
The Bobcats improved to 3-3-0-0 on the year behind an efficient night from their power play unit and 29 saves from rookie goaltender Camden Haugenoe. Bismarck returns to the VFW Sports Center tonight at 7:15 p.m. with the opportunity to earn a weekend sweep over the Bruins.
“We’re just not mentally there yet,” Sedevie said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. I liked our work ethic for the night. I know it’s game six and we’re going to make mistakes, but we need to try to get to that 60-minute mark.”