There's been more losing than winning for Brookings this season, but Friday night the Blizzard found a way. Brookings ground out a 4-2 hockey victory over Bismarck at the VFW Sports Center.
Josh Boyer was the driving force in the Blizzard victory, securing his first junior hockey hat trick with a goal in each period.
Two of Boyer's goals were rebound shots. Boyer, a 6-foot-3 forward, said those goals exemplified the way in which the Blizzard claimed the win despite a 33-21 deficit in shots on net.
"Our coaches are preaching all the time about getting second and third chances. We're a team built on hard work and tonight we showed it," Boyer said. "... We came out and played a full 60 minutes tonight. I'm proud of our team for sure."
Things didn't start well for the visitors. Bismarck led 2-1 after a period, but the Blizzard struck twice late in the second session to take a permanent lead.
Boyer picked up a tying power-play goal at the 14:57 mark, popping in a rebound after Ullan turned back Cameron Teamor’s shot from the blue line.
Exactly one minute later, the Blizzard made it 3-2 on a beautifully executed play. Connor Koviak, in the right circle, fed Haiden Karnick flying down the slot and Karnick buried the shot.
The goaltenders were hung out to dry on the first two goals of the night.
With the Bobcats skating shorthanded, Cooper Harr took off on a breakaway, drawing a hooking call against Brookings defenseman Brendan Aird in the process. Harr, awarded a penalty shot, faked left and tucked the puck inside the right post for the game’s first goal at 3:05.
After taking a pass by Ryan Dickerson, Boyer found himself alone in the low slot. He lifted the puck over Bobcats goalie Ryan Ullan to tie the game at 9:08.
The Bobcats took a 2-1 lead to the locker room for the first break on the strength of Jacob Marti’s blast from the top of the left circle on a breakout with 2:11 remaining in the first period.
Boyer got his third goal of the night with 1:20 to play, grabbing a rebound after Ullan stopped a shot by Koviak.
With the win, last-place Brookings pulled to within a point of Bismarck in the NAHL's Central Division. The Blizzard improved to 15-17-4 for 34 points. The Bobcats stand 16-17-3 and share fourth place with Minot at 35 points.
With one of the Central Division's four playoff spots within reach, Boyer said the Blizzard have to tend to business every night.
"In our division we're looking at every game like it's playoff hockey," he said.
A road victory was especially sweet. Brookings, which had earned just two points in its previous seven games, was 4-10-3 on the road prior to Friday's game.
Boyer said games with Bismarck this season have been rugged battles.
"Most of our games have been pretty close. Give it to Bismarck, they're a hard-working team. They're hard to play against," he said.
Adam Brizgala, making his first start in the net for Brookings, turned in a strong performance, turning away 31 shots, including 15 in the third period.
"That (goaltending) has been our Achilles' heel," said Blizzard head coach and general manager Moe Mantha.
The two teams return to the ice tonight. The puck drops at 7:15.