The Minnesota Wilderness has had trouble finishing hockey games lately. Saturday night that’s mostly what the Bismarck Bobcats did.
Recovering from a 4-0 deficit, the Bobcats scored three goals in the final six minutes before falling 4-3 to the Wild in NAHL action at the VFW Sports Center.
Minnesota snapped a four-game losing streak with the victory. The Bobcats dropped their fifth decision in six outings.
“The last couple of games we’ve been ahead in the first period … but we haven’t been able to finish,” said Wilderness forward Zach Mills, who tallied a goal and an assist. ”We’ve got to play the whole 60 minutes to be a winning team.”
Thirteen penalties, all of them minors, marred the game. Eight of those calls went against Bismarck. The result was four power play goals on the night, three of them by the Wilderness.
Layne Sedevie, the Bobcats coach and general manager, said his post-game message to his players was simple.
“My message was ‘control what you can control and I’ll take care of the rest of it,’” he said, referring to his team’s preoccupation with the way the game was being called.
Minnesota got onto the scoreboard first. Mills, charging in from the left wing, lifted a shot over Will Ulrich on the post side.
The Wilderness outshot the Bobcats early by an 8-4 margin, but the hosts built a 13-11 shot advantage for the first period. Many of Bismarck’s shots, though, were perimeter attempts that were easy pickings for Wilderness goalie Trevor Micucci.
Minnesota picked up two more goals, both on the power play, in a penalty-filled second period that produced eight minors.
Tyler Vold tipped in Tristan Rostagno’s blast from the top of the right circle at 3:43 and Alexander Esbjors drilled in a low shot from the top of the slot at 19:32. That put Minnesota in command 3-0 with 20 minutes to play.
The Wilderness fattened the cushion to 4-0 in the middle of the third period, Jesse Farabee popping in a rebound on a power play with 9:19 on the clock.
It appeared the Bobcats might be shut out for the first time this season.
But when Jiei Halliday scored a power play goal with 5:57 to play, the Bobcats became a whirlwind. Forty seconds later, Parker Mismash knocked in a rebound to make it 4-2.
Sedevie pulled Ulrich with about three minutes remaining, and Bismarck kept the heat on Micucci to the end.
Matthew Barry scored from the top of the left circle with 67 seconds remaining, but the Bobcats couldn’t squeeze the equalizer past Micucci.
The Bobcats outshot Minnesota 12-0 following Farabee’s goal and by a 42-29 margin in the game.
Mills, a 19-year-old from Cottage Grove, Minn., said the Wilderness is in the midst of a six-game run over a fortnight. They lost to the Minnesota Magicians and Minot on the road earlier in the week before visiting Bismarck.
“It’s a grind, but a win is a win,” Mills said.
Sedevie said he didn’t feel the Bobcats played badly while falling into a 4-0 hole.
“It took us about 10 minutes to get going, but after that we had some pretty good chances. … Call it puck luck. We didn’t have a lot of that tonight. We got 43 shots on net.”
The Bobcats return to action on Friday, playing host to Central Division-leading Minot at 7:15 p.m. The Wilderness plays Thursday in a home game against the Magicians.