Austin Jouppi and Kirklan Irey have a lot of hockey ahead of them, but they may never equal what they achieved Friday night.
The two teamed up for two shorthanded goals in 43 seconds to give the Bismarck Bobcats a three-goal lead en route to a 5-4 NAHL victory over Minot.
With the hard-fought victory at the VFW Sports Center, the Bobcats pulled even with Minot in the Central Division standings with 35 points. Minot dipped to 17-12-1 and the Bobcats improved to 17-10-1.
Irey said he may have seen two bang-bang shorthanded goals before, but its been a long time.
“Maybe when I was like 10 or 11, but I haven’t seen that in awhile,” he said.
Bismarck led 2-1 when lightning struck twice.
Jouppi and Irey worked a 2-on-1 break to get a man-short goal off Jouppi’s stick at 9:57 of the second period. Irey got the goal with a 2-on-1 with an assist to Jouppi at 10:40.
“There was a bad (Minot) pass. Austin and I had a little bit of puck luck, and it ended up good for us,” Irey said of the second shorthanded marker. “The first one was similar. The defenseman tried to stop it at the blue line and it squirted out to the neutral zone and we were off to the races.”
In the wake of the two man-short tallies, the Bobcats took a 4-1 lead into an explosive third period.
Power-play goals by the Minotauros' Taylor Lantz at 7:34 and Bismarck’s Andy Stoneman at 16:45 kept the three-goal margin intact with three minutes to play.
Minot’s Lincoln Erne shoved a goal through a huge scrum in front of the net to cut the Minotauro deficit to 5-3 with 1:13 on the clock. Twenty-five seconds later Minot’s Keenan Lund scored on a rebound and the visitors were within striking distance.
At that point, Minot coach Marty Murray called a timeout and replaced goalie Ben Grabko with an extra attacker, but the Minotauros were unable to generate another shot on net.
With 30 seconds to play, however, Minot’s Erne and Bismarck’s Irey picked up majors, and Irey was tagged with a game misconduct.
Irey’s game misconduct was the second of the night for the Bobcats. Bartek Bison was sent packing in the first period, seconds after scoring the first Bismarck goal of the game.
Layne Sedevie, the Bobcats’ head coach and general manager, said Friday’s game was well-timed.
“Getting swept by Austin in our own building didn’t make for a good (Christmas) break,” Sedevie said. “We played really hard tonight against a good hockey team. All the games we play with Minot are really hard-fought.”
Irey agreed the Bobcats needed to wash a three-game losing streak out of their mouths.
“I’d say these two points are huge. We need two more wins on Saturday (at Minot) and Monday (against Minot at the VFW).”
Irey said Minot vs. Bismarck in hockey at any level always gets the adrenaline pumping.
“Whether it’s high school or playing in the NAHL, it’s always competitive. We always give our best against Minot and they give their best against us,” he said.
The two teams square off again tonight in Minot at 8:05.