If winning hockey teams are built from the back on up, then the Bismarck Bobcats still have a chance to claw their way back to the front of the Central Division standings.
With goaltender Aaron Nelson turning in another stellar effort, the Bobcats took down the Brookings Blizzard 2-1 on Friday night.
The Bobcats have now won nine of their last
11 games. In that span, they have surrendered a total of 17 goals. Only once in that stretch have they given up more than two scores.
“Winning hockey games starts from the back. I think every good team knows that,” said Bobcats defenseman Nate Repensky. “We’re trying to put a stop on pucks, get pucks out and just collectively play good team (defense). And I think chances come from that.”
Unlike most games in their streak, on Friday the Bobcats gave up a lot of shots. But Nelson was able to turn aside 40 of the 41 he faced.
But many of the Blizzard’s attempts never reached the net, especially in the first and third period.
“We blocked a lot of shots,” Bobcats coach Layne Sedevie said. “That’s character. That’s the reason why we won tonight.”
Bismarck came out strong, scoring a pair of goals just 41 seconds apart midway through the first period.
Repensky scored the first one, converting a feed from Cory Chapman. It was his first goal as a Bobcat.
“We kind of had a
3-on-2,” Repensky said. “I followed it up and I just tried to throw it on net, and it ended up going five-hole.”
That first goal came on the power play. That facet of the game has been a weakness for Bismarck — which is currently 17th in the league — all season. The Bobcats have had a particularly hard time against Brookings.
Entering the game, they were 1-for-19 with the man-advantage against the Blizzard.
But Repensky sees brighter days ahead.
“That goal was off an odd-man rush, so not the traditional set-up that you’d like,” he said. “But I think we’ve had a lot of different personnel over the year, and that kind of affects it.
“As we start to jell, and the roster to starts to be more definite, I think we’ll start to see more success.”
Ryan Callahan followed up that goal seconds later, gloving the puck and firing another one between the pads of Brookings goalie Erick Majerle. That was enough for Blizzard coach Cory Laylin, who replaced Majerle with Drew Weigman.
Callahan, who is making a comeback after suffering a stress fracture in his back, scored for the second straight game.
“I think he’s playing well,” Sedevie said. “He can fly. He’s physical. He’s good in our own zone. I think he’s going to produce points. He just needs some confidence. It’s nice to see him score a few.”
Brookings got on the board with a power-play goal at 11:45 of the second period, Eric Brenk knocking in the rebound of a shot from Evan Hesse.
But that was the only puck that got by Nelson. The former Century High School standout lowered his NAHL-leading goals against average to 1.66.
“Having him is a huge confidence-booster,” Repensky said. “If somebody misses an assignment or something, he’s making a backdoor save every night. He’s one of the better goaltenders in this league.”
The Bobcats host Brookings again tonight, and have a chance to start putting some daylight between themselves and the teams that have been nipping at their heels for second place in the Central.
“We really like what we have on paper,” Repensky said. “I think the guys in here feel like we bring it every night, we’re going to win. Hopefully we’re going to continue to do that.”
Brookings 0 1 0 — 1
Bobcats 2 0 0 — 2
First period: 1. Bis, Nate Repensky 1 (unassisted), 11:48 (pp). 2. Bis, Ryan Callahan 2 (Cory Chapman), 12:29. Penalties: Brk, Jordan Stejskal (holding), 10:00. Bis, Shane Omdahl (holding), 14:15.
Second period: 3. Brk, Eric Brenk 16 (Evan Hesse, Drew Brevig), 11:45 (pp). Penalties: Bis, Filip Starzynski (hooking), 10:03.
Third period: No scoring. Penalties: Bis, Travis Underwood (charging), 2:16. Brk, Matt Youso (unsportsmanlike conduct), 4:52. Brk, 23 (Connor Andrle), 9:18. Bis, Omdahl (hooking), 14:10.
Goalie saves: Brk — Erick Majerle and Drew Weigman 31. Bis — Aaron Nelson 40.
Penalties: Brk 3 minors. Bis 4 minors.
Records: Brk 19-15-2; Bis 22-13-2.