The Bismarck Bobcats entered the weekend on a five-game losing streak and in the midst of an offensive slump. Following a second consecutive explosion of goals, however, it appears safe to say the Bobcats have awoken from their December slumber.
Tristan Ashbrook scored his second goal in as many nights, Cam Haugenoe turned in a 39-save performance and the Bobcats closed out a weekend sweep of the Bruins with a 4-2 victory at the VFW Sports Center Saturday night.
“I thought it was a good effort,” Bismarck coach Layne Sedevie said. “Obviously that short-handed goal, we’d like to have that one back. I think that gave them a little momentum. Quite frankly our goaltender was an absolute stud during the third period.”
Bismarck’s offense did not wait long to pick up from where it left off last night against Austin goaltender Alex Schilling. Near the midway point of the first period, the Bobcats forced the puck into the Bruins’ defensive zone as an anxious crowd gathered for Teddy Bear Toss Night clenched their stuffed animals in anticipation.
Jiei Halliday ultimately earned the honor of unleashing the Teddy Bears, as the Bismarck defenseman beat Schilling for his fourth goal of the year. Forwards Cooper Haar and Lukas Millen assisted in the release of the abundance of stuffed bears onto the ice.
AJ Drobot and the Bruins struck back just two minutes following the cleanup of the charity toss toys, however. The Austin forward, who tallied an assist on the Bruins’ only goal during Friday night's Central Division showdown, earned his second point of the weekend on a shot that snuck past Haugenoe.
But the Bobcats’ surging offense refused to leave the ice in the first period without a lead, as Ashbrook fired an absolute laser from a step inside the blue line to stake Bismarck to a 2-1 lead before heading into the locker room.
Bismarck, which entered the weekend having scored just five goals through its first three December matchups, returned to the ice just as hot offensively as it went in. A mere five minutes into the second period, Matt Barry, who tallied his ninth goal of the season in Friday night’s contest, opened up a two-score lead for the Bobcats on a short-handed breakaway to reach double-digit markers on the year.
“We had a ton of chances, we had a lot of wide-open nets and they finally started to go in,” Sedevie said. “I thought if we kept doing that, I think we have good skill and just eventually we were going to find the back of the net.”
Forward Tobias Fladeby continued the Bobcats’ offensive onslaught shortly after the midway point of the period, lighting the lamp with his team-leading 14th goal of the season. A defensive lapse allowed Austin to cut into the three-goal deficit, however, as Tanner Dufault beat Haugenoe on a short-handed breakaway.
The Bruins offense came out with a vengeance in the third period, but the Bobcats goaltender was up to the challenge. Haugenoe, who recorded 20 saves in Friday night’s win, stopped 19 shots during the final 20-minute session to preserve the Bismarck’s two-goal lead and earn his fourth victory of the year.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Sedevie said. “Penalties didn’t help, but I thought the penalty kill was good. The part I liked was guys were blocking shots, and we had some of that character back that breeds wins and breeds success.
“Cam made some huge saves for us. It was really nice to see from him.”
Bismarck will take a short Christmas break before returning to the ice on Dec. 29 to face the Minot Minotauros at Maysa Arena.
“It’s a long season, it’s a grind and it will be nice for guys to go home and spend some time with their families,” Sedevie said. “We come back the 26th, we’ll get back to work and obviously three huge games against Minot.
“We’ll get back to work the night of the 26th and make sure we’re reading to go.”