As Minot and Bismarck players mixed it up around the net after a flurry of activity in the closing seconds of Friday’s North American Hockey League game, Bismarck goalie John Roberts emerged from the pack without his stick.
Roberts skated to the faceoff circle and slammed the puck down on the button, putting the finishing touches of his 41-save 3-1 win over the Minotauros at VFW Sports Center.
“I’m a big energy guy and sometimes I overreact, but I was pumped and I knew once we got that stop we were going to win that game,” Roberts said.
The Minot Minotauros’ high-powered offense, which had 33 goals in six games, was no match for Roberts and the Bobcats’ penalty-killing unit. The Minotauros were 0-for-6 with a man (or two) advantage.
Minot’s only goal was by Taylor Lantz with the team skating with an extra attacker at 18:51. It came moments after the Bobcats had stopped a six-on-four advantage,
“Our (penalty-kill) struggled last weekend and we worked on it,” Bismarck coach Lane Sedevie said. “It was nice to see it pay off because we killed a lot of penalties tonight.
Forward Jacob Marti, headed to the Air Force Academy after this season, opened the scoring for the Bobcats, netting the Bobcats’ league-leading 13th power-play goal against the NAHL’s top penalty-killing unit. He later added an assist on Adam Stacho’s empty-netter with 18 seconds to play.
Midway through the opening period, Marti camped at the blue line where he kept a hard pass from behind the net from clearing the zone. He then wound up and slapped a shot through traffic and past Minot goalie Nick Grabko for a 1-0 lead at 11:47.
Marti’s goal stopped the Minotauros’ shutout streak at two games.
Rabko had 13 of his 30 saves in the first period.
The Bobcats missed a couple of great chances to add to the lead before the first period ended. With 9:30 left in the period, Stacho sent the puck across the goal and with 9:52 left, Mitch Walinski lifted a shot from Rabko’s right over an open net.
The first period ended with 1:08 left in Bobcats power play thanks to Connor McGinnis’ high-sticking penalty. It was one of the few times the Bobcats skated with a lead in the second period.
Bismarck began skating shorthanded with 10:11 left in the period. Over the next 10 minutes, they were down five-on-four twice, five-on-three twice and four-on-three. The Bobcats successfully killed all the penalties and even managed to up their lead by a goal at one of the rare times the teams were at even strength with Dawson McKay deflecting a pass from the wing past Rabko at 13:16 of the second period.
Then it was in the good hands of Roberts.
“I got on a roll,” Roberts said. “When you start seeing the puck like that, you can see through everything. It’s like the guys are invisible and you just see the puck. After the first, I saw every single puck.”
The Minotauros finally scored while skating with an extra attacker after Bismarck had killed a six-on-four power play.
Stacho scored on a wrister from inside the blue line to end things.
Roberts made 24 saves in the third period while protecting a 2-0 lead.
“He’s a special goaltender, and you know what, I don’t care if he is five-foot-10,” Sedevie said. “It’s a sign of a good goaltender when he puts pucks in areas that don’t hurt you. That last save was a scramble save.
“There’s not many goaltenders that come through here and wear the captain’s letter. He’s one of them.”