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Bobcats skate past Minot as Korpi nets first win in goal

Bobcats skate past Minot as Korpi nets first win in goal

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The Bobcats' Grant Ahcan, left, sneaks the puck past Minot goalie Keenan Rancier to score a goal in the first period at the VFW Sports Center on Friday night. 

With two lines worth of college commits skating every night, there’s no doubting the talent that the Bismarck Bobcats put on the ice.

That talent was on display Friday night as the Bobcats beat rival Minot 6-3 in a North American Hockey League Central Division game at VFW Sports Center. The two teams play again tonight.

George Grannis and Nico Chmelevski scored two goals apiece and goalie Cameron Korpi made 18 saves in his first start and first extended action for the Bobcats.

“It was fun. Getting that first win in my first game was unreal,” Korpi said. “The start we had definitely took the weight off my shoulders.”

Luke Gramer and Tim Piechowski each tallied a goal and an assist for the Bobcats, who won for the second time in seven games. They staked the Bobcats to a 2-0 lead after one period.

“I felt like we started slow,” Bobcats coach Layne Sedevie said. “We got that power-play goal and in the last 15 minutes we had 14 shots on net. We started to click there.”

The first period was end-to-end play. The Bobcats made better use of puck possession as evidenced by a 14-4 shots-on-goal advantage. The Minotauros never got an extended possession in the Bobcats’ zone.

Piechowski’s fourth goal of the season on the power play got things started. He camped in front of Minot goalie Keenan Rancier and when the netminder failed to cover the puck after a save on Ryan Taylor’s shot from the point, Piechowski was there to swipe it in at 7:35 of the period.

The Bobcats made it 2-0 on Gramer’s goal at 9:58. Gramer kept hacking at the puck under a sprawling Rancier until he finally dug the puck out and put it in the net for his third goal of the season.

All the offense gave Korpi a chance to ease into things in just his second period of the season. Korpi made one in the third period against his brother, Carter, a former Bobcat now playing for Minot.

The Bobcats upped the lead to 3-0 just 2:24 into the second period on a goal by George Grannis. That, however, seemed to inspire the Minotauros.

Kyle Kukkonen and Jack Westlund scored in a span of 12 seconds. Kukkonen picked up an easy goal as he came up ice alone and netted a wrister from the top of the circle that Korpi had a clear view of all the way. Westlund then clanked his off the crossbar from point blank just off the faceoff.

“You blink and you make a couple of bad plays and it’s going to end up in your net,” Sedevie said. “A couple bad shifts back to back and we got a game again.”

Chmelevski scored his first goal of the season for Bismarck by redirecting a shot by Austin Schwartz past Rancier at 10:35. That took some of the steam out of the Minotauros’ rally and gave the Bobcats a 4-2 lead heading into the third period.

The teams exchanged goals in the third period, with Grannis and Chmelevski of Bismarck and Kukkonen of Minot picking up their second each.

Grannis said it was good to see some changes work, and given the delays caused by COVID-19, it’s still early.

“We switched the lineup up a little bit and had some guys with different chemistry get in the lineup and it worked well,” Grannis said. “I think we found a good combination tonight.”

Sedevie wants to see consistency beginning tonight.

“Hopefully we can have a consistent effort again,” Sedevie said. “We’ve dictated some games, then the next night we’re average. Whether it’s competitive maturity or growing pains, we’re striving for consistency.”

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