There have been a lot of miles racked up in the early stages of the NAHL season for the Bobcats.
Their first two road trips, to Blaine and Austin, Minn., totaled nearly 2,000 miles. The lengthy journeys proved fruitful with a promising 4-2 record and eight points in the Central Division Standings.
Friday night, the Bobcats finally get a game in Bismarck when they host rival and first-place Minot at 7:15 p.m., at the VFW Sports Center.
"It's going to be nice to play in front of our fans in our building," said Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie. "To be 4-2, considering our schedule and travel situation, you'd have to say we'd take it."
Sedevie's primary goal in the offseason was to add more scoring punch. It's early in the 60-game slate, obviously, but so far, so good.
Through six games, 13 players have scored, 16 have points and seven have multiple goals. Hunter Johannes leads the way with three goals. Adam Stacho -- with a team-high 10 points -- Kirklan Irey, Ryan Taylor, Alex Pollock, Jacob Marti and Tim Piechowski have two goals apiece.
The blue-liners also are chipping in. Defensemen Sam Malinski and Julian Timba have five points each.
"We've shown we have pretty good depth and we're able to score by committee," Sedevie said. "We struggled to score goals last season and that's something, along with being better on the power play, that we wanted to address. Hopefully we continue to see progress in both of those areas."
The Bobcats' plus 6 goal differential currently is sixth-best in the NAHL. Minot, last season's Robertson Cup runner-up, has won five in a row and ranks No. 1 in goal differential at plus 21.
"They have a pretty decent amount of returners and it looks like they're scoring by committee too, similar to what we've done," Sedevie said. "No question they are a very good hockey team."
Four of the six teams in the Central Division -- Minot (10), Aberdeen (8), Austin (8) and the Bobcats (8) have eight points or more. No other division can boast that.
"The Central Division is the best division in the NAHL, but I think that's a good thing because ultimately what are we trying to do? We're trying to develop hockey players and to face those types of teams game in and game out is only going to make you better," Sedevie said.
With points hard to pick up on the road, home wins are at a premium.
"You go down to Austin like we did last week and get a split, I think you have to be pretty pleased with that. Selfishly, when you win on Friday then you go into Saturday and try to get greedy, but there's no question you have to defend home ice," Sedevie said. "We have great fans and we're looking forward to Friday night for sure."
BIG HONOR FOR IREY
It's been a busy month for Kirklan Irey.
The Century High product committed to Division I Bemidji State in mid-September and on Wednesday was listed as a Player to Watch by the NHL Central Scouting Combine.
Players are listed under A, B, C and Players to Watch designations based on evaluations of NHL scouts during the NAHL Showcase last month in Blaine. Five players Nicklas Andrews (D, Brookings Blizzard), Joseph Foss (D, Odessa Jackalopes), Jackson Jutting (F, Minnesota Magicians), Dennis Westergard (G, Kenai River Brown Bears), and Jack Williams (G, Springfield Jr. Blues) earned C evaluations.
Nine others, including Irey, were listed as players to watch.
"It's absolutely awesome and one of many great accomplishments that have happened for Kirklan and I think many more are to come," Sedevie said. "He played extremely well in the showcase."
Irey has two goals and two assists so far for the Bobcats.
"He's extremely talented and fun to watch," Sedevie said. "His future is very bright and we're excited to have him playing for the Bobcats."
Other players listed as players to watch are Erik Bargholtz (F, Janesville Jets), Jeff Bertrand (F, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights), Dylan Davies (D, Austin Bruins), McLean Dorr (G, Brookings Blizzard), Ethan Haider (G, Minnesota Magicians), Chase Sakic (F, Brookings Blizzard), Camden Thiesing (F, Chippewa Steel), and Samuel Vyletelka (G, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights).