The Bismarck Bobcats dug a victory out of a deeply bleak situation on Sunday, defeating Minot 4-1 on New Year’s eve at the VFW Sports Center.
Going into the game, the Bobcats were 2-3-2 against Minot this season and had lost seven of their last 10 games overall. Minot had beaten the Bobcats 5-3 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday.
In addition, 20 goals had departed over the Christmas break as Ty Enns left the team and Jared Resseguie joined the Denver University team.
Yet Michael Mahan, a three-year NAHL veteran and two-year Bobcat, said hockey isn’t a game that rewards brooding.
“We lost a huge part of our team and guys have got to step up. We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” said Mahan, who scored two goals on Sunday. “… All year Minot has been roughing us up. It’s a heated rivalry. … We needed two points tonight, and we got it done. It’s such a tight division that every game matters.”
Things started in an alarming way for the Bobcats as Minot’s Taylor Lantz lit the light with just 2:36 expired.
That was the end of the scoring for the Minotauros, however, as Bobcats goalie Ryan Ullan put the clamps on, finishing with 27 saves.
The Bobcats finally got cooking late in the second period as Pavel Kharin found the net 3:35 before the second intermission. Then Mahan added a power play goal with 27 seconds remaining and Bismarck had a 2-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
Two more power play goals followed. Mahan connected at 5:53 of the third period with Minot a man short, and Lukas Millen closed out scoring with an empty-net power-play goal with 55 seconds to play.
Layne Sedevie, the Bobcats head coach and general manager, said part of the reason Bismarck has had trouble with the Minotauros this season is they’re taking on a good team.
“They’re going to be a good hockey team down the stretch. They’ve had a lot of injuries people aren’t aware of,” Sedevie said.
“I told our guys this was a tough win for us,” Sedevie added. “The (capacity) crowd was awesome and it was good that we could get a win here at home.”
Sedevie said every Bobcat player is going to have to shoulder part of the load as the team tries to cobble together some offensive firepower.
“This was a must win. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. When you lose your leader (Resseguie) … they have to step up. We hope to do it by committee and every one has to contribute,” Sedevie said.
With the victory, the Bobcats returned to .500 at 15-15-2 for 32 points. Minot, which had won five of its last seven games while picking up 12 points, dipped to 14-12-4 with 32 points.
Bismarck returns to action on Saturday, playing host to Brookings.