The St. Cloud Norsemen peppered Aberdeen goalie Cole Moore all game long but struggled to solve the netminder as the Wings picked up a road win at the MAC 5-1. And while the Norsemen didn’t give any ground to the closest team to them in the standings with North Iowa Bulls losing in regulation, wins by Minot and Bismarck tightened the standings even more in the Central.
The first was the only period Aberdeen outshot St. Cloud and it was just by two, 11-9, but those two shots on goal were the difference as the Wings took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Just over the halfway point of the stanza Aberdeen won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly at the left dot and Luke Lindsay from the left boards made a quick D-to-D pass to Zachary Reim at the point. Reim blasted a one-timer from the center of the ice just inside the blueline that Nikolai Tishkevich tipped home at the 11:05 mark of the first period. It looked like that score would hold up to the locker rooms but moments after a scoring chance at the other end, a Norsemen miscue ended up in the back of the net. St. Cloud turned the puck over in their own zone that Patrick O’Connell stole and fed to Jordan Ronn in the high slot. Ronn skated it to the right and backhanded his first NAHL goal high, glove-side on Ethan Dahlmeir to give the visitors a 2-0 lead with 16.6 seconds left in the first period.
The two teams traded one power play chance each in the first and St. Cloud had three chances in the second to Aberdeen’s one but neither side could find the back of the net with the Norsemen outshooting the Wings 10-5 in the middle frame. Seven minutes into the third period the Norsemen went on their fifth power play of the game and capitalized. A failed clearance attempt by Aberdeen was caught by Daniels Murnieks at the half wall and he centered the puck from the right wing boards to Blake Perbix all alone in the middle of the ice. Perbix skated it to the net and then backhanded it over to Kade Peterson who outwaited Moore. The Wings’ netminder slid too far and Peterson tucked it home for his team-leading 25th goal and 49th point. The momentum didn’t last long though, as 31 seconds later St. Cloud turned the puck over as Reim picked off a pass and buried from the inside sliver of the left circle to make it a 3-1 game.
The next Norsemen power play chance turned into an Aberdeen goal as Devon Carlstrom from the Aberdeen blue line hit O’Connell at center ice and O’Connell skated in from the right side. He scored a goal short side to give the Wings a 4-1 lead 10:57 into the third and Tishkevich added an empty netter 48 seconds later to make it a 5-1 final.
Despite St. Cloud having a 35-26 shots on goal advantage for the game, St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz didn’t feel their performance was enough to come away with the victory. “They (Aberdeen) were very desperate from the drop of the puck. We were on our heels in the first period and then we started competing after. When you don’t execute on some of your chances and you give up some goals, it’s tough to win that way,” Kautz reasons. “But give credit to them, they played a hard game and probably a game that they wanted to play. When you get behind early, the game can be tough, especially knowing in our division that everyone is tough, everyone is very competitive. You gotta make sure you find a way to play a full sixty (minutes) if you want two points.”
Moore ended up with 34 saves on 35 shots on goal and Kautz, a former NAHL goaltender himself, was impressed with the Toronto, Ontario native. “I thought he did everything that he needed to do, he made some good saves. I thought at times our execution, shot selection, shot placement maybe could have been a little bit better but he was hitting his marks; give a lot of credit to him,” praises Kautz. “He’s a very talented goalie, we need to find a way to make him feel a little bit more uncomfortable if he plays tomorrow and try to get second chance opportunities.”
St. Cloud’s power play went 1-for-7 on the night and finished even as Aberdeen scored a shorthanded goal. “When you have seven attempts you want to try to get at least two goals. Those are huge momentum swings,” Kautz explains. “It’s something that we’re going to have to look at on film and maybe try to find a way to get some better looks. There are looks out there that we need to try to expose and find a way to execute.”
St. Cloud remains with a three-point lead for second place in the Central as North Iowa fell in regulation, but they were unable to gain any ground in clinching a playoff spot as the bottom three teams, Aberdeen, Minot and Bismarck, all picked up victories. Minot needed a shootout to get past Austin 3-2 while Bismarck shutout North Iowa 3-0, which extended both of those teams to a winning streak of three. As if the Central Division wasn’t tight enough before the night began, it somehow ended with the teams even closer. St. Cloud sits with 64 points while North Iowa now has 61, Aberdeen and Minot are tied with 60 and Bismarck pulls up the rear with 58.
Fortunately for St. Cloud, they find themselves in the same spot Saturday night that they were on Friday. A win clinches a spot for the Norsemen in the playoffs while a win coupled with a North Iowa regulation loss or a Minot loss of any kind would guarantee St. Cloud no worse than the #3 seed. A Norsemen win and both of those other results would lock up the #2 seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs for St. Cloud.
The next Norsemen game is the last regular season home game for the season and has a plethora of promotions. Miller Auto is giving three fans 18 or older a chance to shoot for $50,000 towards a new vehicle and the first 75 fans that are 21+ get a pint glass from Pantown Brewing. The Fleet Farm Chuck-a-Puck will see four fans getting a chance to shoot for $10,000 cash and for fans of all ages there will be a Post Game Skate after the conclusion of the game. For tickets go to tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.