The St. Cloud Norsemen pulled away from the Bismarck Bobcats with a strong third period Friday night to earn a 5-3 victory but fell in the rematch Saturday night by a final score of 3-1.
On Friday the Norsemen and Bobcats were deadlocked at two apiece going into the third when defensemen Broten Sabo scored just 13 seconds into the period, Kade Peterson added a breakaway goal that turned into the game winner and after Bismarck cut the lead to just one, Hunter Hanson’s empty netter sealed the win at 5-3. For a full game recap of Friday night’s victory, click here.
Saturday’s game followed the script from the night before where the first period started out passive, with not a lot of shots on goal, and it looked like we may have a scoreless first on back-to-back nights. St. Cloud got themselves in penalty trouble late in the frame however, and Bismarck capitalized. After the Norsemen failed to clear the zone the Bobcats formed a perfect triangle of passes from Vertti Jantunen down to Patrick Johnson at the right circle who found Evan Hunter on the lower, inside portion of the left circle and Hunter beat an outstretched Ethan Dahlmeier sliding left to right to make it 1-0 15:59 into the game. Just moments later on another man advantage Jantunen from up against the right side boards threw a puck into the slot that Adam Pietila caught and with his back to the net took a backhanded shot. Dahlmeier kicked out the effort with a left pad save but Johnson elevated the rebound up over the left pad to score less than two minutes after Bismarck’s first goal. What looked like it would be a quiet and uneventful period ended with a lot of noise for the visitors in the closing minutes and after getting outshot 7-6 in the first twenty minutes, the Bobcats skated off with a 2-0 lead.
Special teams factored into the second period as well, but in the Norsemen’s favor, as early in the frame St. Cloud killed off back-to-back penalties that resulted in 52 seconds of a 5-on-3 Bismarck advantage and seemed to build momentum. Then the Bobcats took their first penalty of the period on a too many men on the ice call and turnabout being fair play in hockey, the Norsemen used the man advantage to draw within one. With three seconds left on the penalty being served by Carter Krenke, the Norsemen’s Jeremiah Konkel won a right side offensive zone faceoff clean back to the wall, banking it to defenseman Chase Cheslock. Cheslock slid it back to Konkel who had backpedaled to soft ice in the slot and Konkel one-time wristed it, kissing the puck off the crossbar, bardown and in, beating Hunter Garvey up over the blocker. While technically not a power play goal as Krenke had been released a second earlier, the man disadvantage factored into the goal which got St. Cloud within one at the 7:33 mark of the second. Both teams registered twice as many shots on goal in the second as they did in the first, with the Norsemen again edging the Bobcats in that category by one 14-13, and the two teams skated into the third with Bismarck on top 2-1.
St. Cloud kept their foot on the gas pedal and dialed up a ton of pressure in the third period, where they outshot Bismarck 12-7, but couldn’t solve Garvey, who finished the evening with 32 saves. In the last minute of the game the Norsemen had their goaltender pulled and an offensive zone faceoff but Hunter pushed the puck sideways to the right wing boards and Pietila skated onto it, firing three quarters the length of the ice to find the empty net with 22.2 left on the clock. It was goaltender Garvey’s first game suiting up for the Bobcats but the veteran goaltender is no stranger to the NAHL, as he began the season with the El Paso Rhinos and Bismarck is the sixth organization the journeyman has played for in the league.
The victory improved the Bobcats to a record of 6-8-1-1 with 14 points on the season. St. Cloud fell to 7-8-0-1 and 15 points, one ahead of Bismarck in the tight Central Division standings. The two teams will be jockeying for position again this weekend as the matchup remains the same but the venue changes to the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck, ND. The puck drops at 7:15 pm both Friday and Saturday night and the games can be watched online at hockeytv.com.
The next home games for the Norsemen will be Friday and Saturday, November 18th and 19th, when the Minot Minotauros come to town. Tickets for those games are still available, go online to tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com. And while you’re there, check out the Norsemen’s new Coors Light Chill Zone tickets; for $13 adults 21+ can enjoy $2 16 oz. Coors and Coors Light “pounders.”