The keys to Friday night’s North American Hockey League game at the VFW Sports Center numbered two.
First, the Bismarck Bobcats had Auston Jouppi on call. Second the Minot Minotauros took a costly five-minute major.
Jouppi contributed two goals and and two assists to Bismarck’s 5-2 victory. And the Bobcats milked two power-play goals from Fritz Belisle’s third-period boarding major.
Jouppi, a NAHL rookie from Duluth East High School, said Friday’s game ranks as the high point of his short junior hockey career “for sure.”
His first goal was a short-handed marker that put the Bobcats on top 2-1 at 8:58 of the second period.
Jouppi took advantage of a mid-ice Minot turnover and sped down the ice for a breakaway on Tauros goalie Nicholas Grabko.
“I took a bad-angle backhand shot and the puck kind of got lodged in (Grabko’s) skate at the (left) post,” Jouppi said. “I hit it one more time and it went in.”
Minot cut the margin in half at 16:04 of the second period on when Didrik Henbrant scored from short range on the heels of some nice setup work by Lincoln Erne and David Raisanen.
That made the score 2-1 and that’s the way things stood when Belisle made contact as he successfully stopped a breakaway by the Bobcats’ Will Fisher. Fisher slammed heavily into the end boards, earning Belisle a boarding major and a game misconduct for tangling with Bismarck’s Kirklan Irey after the whistle. Irey was also ejected.
The Bobcats made the most of the opportunity. Jouppi converted a pass from the right goal line by Jake Vaughan to put the Cats up 3-1 with 6:34 expired. Less than a minute later, Vaughan scored after taking a Jouppi pass from behind the goal line and Bismarck was in charge 4-1.
Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie said the major penalty was “absolutely” the game’s turning point.
“That created some separation. We played really well in the second period and they got a goal late. That gave them life,” Sedevie said. “That (penalty) allowed us to regain that separation.”
With the win, the Bobcats and Minotauros drew even in the standings with 33 points.
They face off again tonight in a rematch in Minot.
Jouppi said the Bobcats will have to hit the ice flying.
“(The Minotauros) will come out ready to play. We’ve got to play with the same energy tomorrow that we did tonight,” he observed.
“I think we’re 8-2 in our last 10 games, so we’ve played some good hockey,” Sedevie said. “We played extremely hard. That’s a good hockey team over there (in the Minot dressing room). Now we’ve got to go up there and try to steal some points.”