ABERDEEN, SD (FRIDAY NIGHT) [AberdeenWings.com] – In their first game back from the holiday break, the Aberdeen Wings had to dig in to find a way to win.
After grabbing the game’s first goal Friday night, the visiting St. Cloud Norsemen got two themselves before the Wings found the final goal to send the game past regulation time. And after a scoreless overtime period, Aberdeen also grabbed a shootout goal to take a 3-2 win in front of 1,700 fans inside the Odde Ice Center.
The Wings started off hot. Despite failing to score on an early 5-on-3 power play, they applied serious pressure and delivered incredible defense, preventing the Norsemen from getting many scoring chances. At the 16:16 mark, Landon Parker got the Wings on the board when he found a loose puck at the top of the crease and turned and fired, and the puck took a slow bounce past the goal line for the 1-0 lead. Parker grabbed his eighth goal on the season, while Patrick O’Connell racked up his 16th assist and Nikolai Tishkevich notched his 12th.
The Wings took 14 shots in the opening period while holding St. Cloud to just three, and skated into the first break with the one-goal lead.
It was the Norsemen who started the second period off hot, closing the gap in shots on goal before the Wings found their footing and put more pressure on St. Cloud goaltender Tomas Bolo. But Kade Peterson got the equalizer at the 4:40 mark just one second after the Wings killed off a penalty. He scored again, this time just 28 seconds into a Norsemen power play, to give his team their only lead of the game at the 15:36 mark in the second.
St. Coud managed nine shots in the middle period while holding the Wings to seven. Aberdeen had to kill off three penalties while the Norsemen killed one, and the Wings headed into the final break with the one-goal deficit.
Aberdeen killed off their fourth penalty of the game before going on their fifth power play opportunity just over halfway through the final period. Parker skated the puck into the Norsemen zone and fed over to O’Connell, who passed across the crease to an open Kyle Contessa — he fired a one-timer from the circle and into the back of the net for a power play goal at the 12:32 mark to tie the game at two apiece. It was his seventh goal on the season, while O’Connell grabbed his second assist of the game, 17th overall, and Parker picked up his 13th assist on the season.
It was some gritty final minutes to close out the period, with each team looking for the game-winner — both teams were even denied a breakaway chance each, and the game remained tied at two when the final horn sounded. Aberdeen edged out St. Cloud in shots on goal 7-6 before the game went to an extra five minutes of overtime, where St. Cloud fired off four shots at Wings netminder Geno Pichora and Aberdeen didn’t get a shot off themselves. But Pichora came up big all four times despite some good chances, and the game’s fate went to a shootout.
Blake Perbix went first for the Norsemen, but Pichora denied his shot. Aberdeen’s first skater, Tishkevich, was also denied. Second shooters — St. Cloud’s Kade Peterson and Aberdeen’s Landon Parker — also failed to score, as did St. Cloud’s third shooter, Tyler Dysart. But Dylan Wegner came up big for Aberdeen, skating wide to the right before cutting back to deke and easily sliding the puck past the goal line for the shootout’s lone goal and the game-winner for the home team.
And with that, the Wings took their second win in a row and two coveted league points in a tightly-contested Central Division.
Aberdeen went 1-5 with the extra attacker while St. Cloud went 1-4, and the Wings outshot the Norsemen 29-22 overall. But Wings head coach Scott Langer said despite the win, he would like to see more out of his team. He was happy his squad outshot the visitors by eleven shots in the first and was proud of the comeback, but saw some weaknesses he knows they can fix.
“This was not our best effort. All of us in that locker room know that,” he said. “But the positive is we played it to the final buzzer and found a way to take the two points.”
And he’d like the team to settle in for more rounded effort in Saturday’s matchup.
“The first game back from break is always an interesting one,” he added. “I feel we all need to look in the mirror and bring the best version of ourselves to be a harder team to pay against.”
While Wegner earned the shootout game-winner and the game’s first star honors, Pichora kept his team in the game between the pipes, denying 20 of the 22 shots he faced in regulation and all three shootout chances. St. Cloud’s four shots during the overtime period were quality chances, but Pichora refused to let them by, and he proved why he’s a Big 10-committed goalie.
“Geno closed the door when we needed him the most,” Langer said. “He gave us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask of your goaltender.”
ABERDEEN, SD (SATURDAY NIGHT) [AberdeenWings.com]Trailing by a goal with less than five minutes on the clock, the Aberdeen Wings found the back of the net twice in that span to steal the win from the visiting St. Cloud Norsemen to complete the weekend home sweep in front of another full house at the Odde Ice Center.
Each team killed off a penalty in the opening period but the Wings outshot the Norsemen 14-9. During the middle stanza, St. Cloud killed off two more penalties while Aberdeen killed one, taking eight shots and holding the Norsemen to just three.
Despite being outshot 22-12 in the game’s first 40 minutes, St. Cloud was the one who got on the board first just 1:05 into the third when Broten Sabo finally got one past Wings netminder Cole Moore. The Norsemen killed two more penalties later in the period, but a third penalty led to the equalizer for the Wings. After a head contact call, Aberdeen maintained puck possession on the delayed penalty and fed out to Jackson Anderson, who fired from the blue line through traffic and into the back of the net at the 15:19 mark in the third. It was Anderson’s third goal on the season, while Alexander Gullichsen picked up his tenth assist and Ronan Walsh grabbed his eighth.
Tied up at one apiece, each team was looking for the game-winner to prevent another overtime bout — and it was the Wings who found it with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game. That’s when Owen DuBois got the puck and skated into the Norsemen zone before feeding to Logan Gravink in the corner; Gravink passed the puck back to DuBois, who fired from the middle of the circle to make the back of the net billow at the 19:37 mark. It was the Wings captain’s fifth goal on the season, while Gravink picked up his fourth assist and Kyle Contessa got his 12th.
After a Norsemen timeout, St. Cloud goaltender Tomas Bolo headed for the bench to give his team the extra attacker, but Aberdeen held strong defensively, even grabbing an empty net goal just after time expired on the clock.
The Norsemen outshot the Wings in the final period 13-11, but the Wings had the overall advantage 33-25. Neither team scored a power play goal, with Aberdeen going 0-5 and St. Cloud going 0-2.
“It was a close-checking game and both teams played well in net,” Wings head coach Scott Langer said. “Our group didn’t get frustrated and continued to push the pace and ultimately found a way to win.”
Moore was once again solid between the pipes for Aberdeen, turning away 24 of the 25 shots he faced for his 13th win on the year. Overall, he improves to a 2.65 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage over 22 games played.
After grabbing four points on the weekend, the Wings (17-9-1-2) solidified their spot in second place in the Central Division standings while inching closer to the first place Austin Bruins, who they’ll face once again next weekend on the road. For Langer and company, the team will collectively need to find a way to put more pucks in the net.
“We are a score-by-committee type team,” he said. “To score more goals, we need to continue to work in units of five and execute our principals.”
The Wings head to Riverside Arena once again to face the Bruins on Jan. 6-7 before heading north to face the Minot Minotauros on Jan. 13-14. They’ll return home to the Odde on Thursday, Jan. 19 to face the Bismarck Bobcats before hitting the road to North Dakota to face the Bobcats inside the VFW Sports Center on Jan. 20-21, and they’ll finish the month on home ice against the Bobcats once again.
“This is a great opportunity to spend some time together with no distractions,” Langer said of the upcoming road stretch. “We need to let that fuel us and get us through a tough road schedule in January.”
Fans can watch the away games using their HockeyTV login, or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings, the official home for all Wings away games. The game’s audio will be broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock, or via The Rock app.
Tickets for the three home games in January are available now online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com. Stay tuned to the team’s website and social media pages for more details on the upcoming games.