ABERDEEN, SD (AberdeenWings.com) –
Aberdeen Wings 5-3
The Aberdeen Wings had a short week after defeating the Minot Minotauros to advance in the Central Division finals, but the short work week proved to be a successful one as the Wings defeated the visiting Bismarck Bobcats 5-3 Friday night inside the Odde Ice Center. The Wings lead the series 1-0.
Bismarck, who swept the Minnesota Wilderness in their semifinal round, took their first postseason loss against a dominating Aberdeen team. But they kept up with the Wings, forcing a tie game in the third period before the Wings took the go-ahead goal and held on for the win.
Action started quickly inside the Odde when Will Arquiett skated the puck down the ice, around a defender and over the shoulder of Bobcat goaltender Ian Shane to give the Wings the 1-0 lead just 1:39 into the game. He grabbed his second postseason goal, while Jake Goldowski got his second postseason assist and Christian Abrams notched his first. Less than five minutes later, Abrams widened the gap with a tight-angled shot of his own, scoring his first postseason goal at the 6:15 mark. Clayton Cosentino assisted on the play, his fourth postseason apple, while Natan Vertes recorded his second, and the Wings took the 2-0 lead on their first three shots of the game. Bismarck brought the score back within one when Ryan Taylor found an open backdoor at the 17:12 mark for his second postseason goal. But Aberdeen outshot the Bobcats by one, 9-8, and headed into the first break leading by the same margin.
The Wings started the second period on the penalty kill but held off the man-advantage. They went on the power play themselves later in the period, but Bismarck kept them at bay. With time trickling down in the middle period, Payton Matsui redirected a shot from Cullen Ferguson to put the Wings back up by two at the 19:24 mark. It was Matsui’s second postseason goal and Ferguson’s third assist; Nico deVita also got credit for the helper, notching this fourth. After dominating shots on goal 20-7, the Wings skated into the final intermission leading 3-1.
Bismarck fought back early in the third — Luke Gramer brought the Bobcats back within one at the 3:10 mark, grabbing his second postseason goal, and Austin Schwartz capitalized on a Wings turnover to beat Wings goalie Jake Sibell one-on-one to tie the game at the 9:53 mark. However, Aberdeen needed just ten seconds to get the go-ahead when Jakob Stender sent a long pass into the Bismarck zone and Cosentino beat the defenders, turning the puck and playing it off Shane for the game-winner. That was Cosentino’s third postseason goal and Stender’s second postseason assist. With the Wings leading by one halfway through the third, they did all they could to stave off another possible overtime period — Aberdeen played in nearly three full overtime periods in two semifinal games. Bismarck pulled Shane from between the pipes with 1:22 remaining in regulation, giving themselves the extra attacker, and overall fired 13 shots at Sibell while holding the Wings to just six in the final 20 minutes. But at the 19:43 mark, Jake Goldowski got his stick on a Bismarck pass to force a turnover and put one in the empty net, giving the Wings the insurance they were looking for. The Wings held on for 17 seconds to claim the 5-3 victory.
“Getting out to a lead against a very good Bobcat team was very important,” Wings head coach and GM Scott Langer said after the win. “I also like the way we responded after game getting tied up.”
Overall, the Wings outshot the Bobcats 34-29, with Shane stopping 29-33 and Sibell denying 26-29. During his postseason run, Sibell has allowed just 16 goals on 199 shots, good for a .920 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average. Both teams went 0-1 on the power play.
For Langer, he had a straightforward takeaway from Friday’s game. “We found a way to get the first win of the series,” he said. “We expect to be better tomorrow.”
Aberdeen Wings 4-1
The Aberdeen Wings took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Central Division Finals after a dominating 4-1 victory over the Bismarck Bobcats Saturday night inside the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen. With the win, the Wings have stayed perfect in postseason play at the Odde, winning all five matches played on their home ice.
Thomas Manty got the Wings on the board first at the 6:38 mark, skating between the circles and deflecting a rebound shot by Nathan Mann. It was Manty’s third postseason goal, with Mann picking up his second assist and Cullen Ferguson notching his fourth. Later in the first period, Jakob Stender fed Natan Vertes, who skated in and sent one five-hole between the legs of Bismarck goaltender Ian Shane at the 18:40 mark. Vertes picked up his third postseason goal, while Stender recorded his third postseason assist. However, the Bobcats responded just 18 seconds later off a quick shot from Austin Schwartz to put Bismarck back within one. After outshooting the Bobcats 13-8, Aberdeen skated into the first intermission leading 2-1.
Each team fired a bevy of shots in the second period, but it was Kyle Gaffney who gave the Wings the cushion they were looking for just shy of the twelve minute mark. Trevor Russell took a shot from the blue line and Gaffney was there to capture the rebound for his second postseason goal. Overall, Aberdeen once again outshot Bismarck, taking 15 shots compared to twelve, and the teams headed into the final break with the Wings leading 3-1.
Aberdeen took a penalty at the 1:55 mark in the third, but Bismarck had 33 seconds left on the power play before also taking a penalty and moving to four-on-four hockey — and just 22 seconds later, Mann took a pass from Gaffney and put it in the upper left-hand corner to put the Wings up 4-1. That was his first postseason goal, while Gaffney notched his third postseason assist. Russell also picked up his third apple, his second of the night. The Wings held the Bobcats at bay for the remaining 16:20, defending off a six-man advantage when Bismarck pulled Shane out from between the pipes with just less than three minutes remaining in regulation play. Even with the extra attacker, the Wings still managed to outshoot Bismarck in the final period, 14-10, overall taking 42 shots while holding the Bobcats to 30.
“Being sound defensively gives you a chance to win every night,” Wings head coach and general manager Scott Langer said after the game. “As a team, we have to continue to take pride in our defensive game.”
Shane stopped 38/42, while Wings goalie Jake Sibell was hot once again, denying 29/30. He improves to a 2.14 postseason goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. Bismarck went 0/2 on the power play, but the Bobcats also killed off each of their penalties, holding the league’s top power play unit to 0/5 on the night. “Tonight, our players played a very disciplined game,” Langer said. “We capitalized on our opportunities and limited the opportunities against.”
The Wings will travel to the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck for a Friday 7:15 puck drop. If needed, the teams could face off for Game 4 in Bismarck, and a fifth game would be held back inside the Odde on Monday, June 14. The winner of the series will head to Blaine, MN, to vie for the 2021 Robertson Cup.