The rivalry between the Bismarck Bobcats and Minot Minotauros is alive and well. Words were exchanged throughout, tempers flared and 73 combined penalty minutes were distributed in the Bobcats’ 4-3 victory over the Minotauros on Friday night at the VFW Sports Center.
“There have been a few [games] over the course of my memory, I don’t know,” Bismarck coach Layne Sedevie said. “We played well at times during the first and second [periods], I thought they dominated us at times, but we played extremely well during the third period. I thought we dominated that period.
“That’s something we need to figure out, is how to play for 60 minutes because when we play, we can play very well.”
It did not take Bismarck very long to find its first score of the evening. With fans still filing into their seats, forward Joey Sardina uncorked a rocket that sailed past Minotauros goaltender Lucas Murray to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead on the first shot of the game.
Minot did not wait too long to respond, however. With the Bobcats minutes away from heading to the locker room with a one-goal lead, forward Austin Koss slid a puck between the legs of goaltender Will Ulrich for the equalizer. The goal was Koss’ first in 10 games this season.
The second period of the game represented a microcosm of all good rivalry matchups. A combined 67 penalty minutes were distributed, including three game misconducts. Bismarck forward Zach Kennedy fired up an electric crowd with a fight victory over Luke Davison midway through the period.
With the Bobcats working the puck into the Minotauros’ zone, Kennedy and Davison dropped back near center ice. Davison landed the first blow, but the Bobcats forward had the last laugh, connecting with a blow that sent the pair of skaters down to the ice as fans roared to salute Kennedy’s clear-cut win.
“I thought it was huge,” Sedevie said. “You need certain stuff in games, and we needed that. Fighting in the game of hockey needs to be done the right way, you don’t want to see anybody get hurt, but he is our captain, and what a lift for us. Right before that fight we were stale, and that’s why he is the captain of our hockey team.”
Minot won the period on the scoreboard, however, as Chase Springman and Tyler Jeanson notched a pair of goals to send the Minotauros to a 3-1 lead. The Minotauros outshot the Bobcats 18-6 during the period, leaving Ulrich with little room for error.
The volume in the arena had died down quite a bit since the Kennedy fight, but an early third-period score by Matt Barry rejuvenated a raucous crowd. Barry’s screamer from between the red circles sent Bobcats fans into a frenzy and foreshadowed what would prove to be an unbelievable finish.
“We talked about the game being down to 20 minutes,” Sedevie said. “We needed to do everything and try to get one and we knew we would have momentum with the building. When we got that first one you kind of felt it on the bench. We just wanted to empty the tanks, nothing to save it for.”
Bismarck’s offense was buzzing throughout the third period, which ultimately led to a late scoring surge that proved to be the difference. Tobias Fladeby notched the game-tying goal with a little over 60 seconds to play and, with the crowd still celebrating the equalizer, Nick Alexander beat Murray 10 seconds later to give the Bobcats a 4-3 lead.
“We called our timeout and we wanted to set up a faceoff play and win the draw and we got a huge goal,” Sedevie said. “The biggest thing was trying to keep our heads in it because there was still about 1:05 left and anything can happen in that amount of time. We wanted to make sure we took care of pucks.
“I don’t know how it happened, I didn’t really see it, but it wound up in the back of the net.”
The pair of late goals lifted Bismarck to its 10th and certainly biggest win of the season. Their 10-8-1 record now has the Bobcats eight points behind the first-place Minotauros (13-5-2).
“I think it can [be a difference-making win],” Sedevie said. “That type of win, it’s big anytime, but against our biggest rival, against a team that is atop the standings, no way around it, that’s a huge win for us.”