The Minnesota Wilderness has had the Bismarck Bobcats’ number so far this season. Entering Friday night’s showdown at the VFW Sports Center, Minnesota had won all three previous matchups between the two teams by an average margin of two goals.
This particular installment of the season series between the pair of Central division foes yielded a similar result as the previous three with the Wilderness using a four-goal second period to vault the team to a 4-2 victory over the Bobcats.
“For some reason we only played 20 minutes,” Bismarck coach Layne Sedevie said. “We played great during the first period, but for some reason the second period is our nemesis right now. We have to find a way to play 60 minutes.”
Forward Parker Mismash got the Bobcats off to a hot start midway through the first period, cleaning up a Jiei Halliday shot that bounced off Wilderness goaltender Trevor Micucci. The goal was Mismash’s 10th of the season and gave Bismarck its first lead over the Wilderness in 10 periods of action this season.
The Bobcats carried their 1-0 lead into locker room, but the ecstasy of the Mismash goal dissipated very early in the second period. Minnesota took complete control of the game in a matter of just seven minutes of play.
Immediately following a Joey Sardina crosschecking penalty, Tristan Rostagno a string of four consecutive goals started. Michael Zuffante kicked it back to Rostagno off the faceoff and the defenseman rocketed a laser past Bismarck starting goaltender Camden Haugenoe to knot the game up at 1-1 with a power play goal.
Two minutes later Alexander Esbjors buried a shot that slowly slid beyond the red line as Haugenoe looked to cover. Charlie Parker then extended the Wilderness lead 30 seconds later, putting an end to Haugenoe’s night and bringing Will Ulrich onto the ice in the process.
Minnesota responded to the goaltender change with a rude welcome of the new Bismarck net minder, as Esbjors notched his second tally of the night and eighth goal of the season to cap off the four-goal run.
“In the first period we moved our feet, we on battles and we did a lot of things right,” Sedevie said. “During the second period we stopped moving our feet. You can’t have success in this league when you don’t work. It’s a simple recipe to have success and win games, and that’s hard work. I wish I had the crystal ball.”
The third period was not much kinder to the Bobcats, as the Wilderness took care of business for the most part on the defensive end while continuing to pepper Ulrich on offense. Miccuci finished the night with 31 saves en route to his fifth victory between the pipes this season.
Minnesota’s victory assures a season series win over Bismarck with three games still to play between the two teams on the schedule. Bismarck, with the loss, drops it to 11-12-1 (23 points) on the season as the team now sits 11 points behind the first-place Minot Minotauros.
“We have to have a better effort,” Sedevie said. “There is no way around it, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. They are a good hockey team, but I feel like when we play well we have a really nice team as well. They played for 60 minutes and we played for 20, so hopefully we can get to that benchmark soon.”
The Bobcats will look to rebound from their now four-game losing streak on the road tonight against the team it last won against on November 19th, the Brookings Blizzard.