The St. Cloud Norsemen finished off a sweep of Bismarck and put the Bobcats’ postseason hopes on life support with a 1-0 victory at the MAC on Saturday night.
Coming off of a 5-1 loss Friday night and sitting in last place in the Central Division, Bismarck knew going into Saturday night’s game they were still close enough to have a shot at the playoffs, but they found themselves in a vulnerable spot and in desperation mode for points. Despite the circumstances the Bobcats could only muster six shots on goal in the opening frame, getting doubled up 12-6 by St. Cloud in a scoreless first period.
The edge also went to the Norsemen in the second period with a 14-10 shots on goal advantage. In the second half of regulation the Norsemen finally broke through on the scoresheet when aggressive forechecking by Kade Peterson and Jack Wandmacher made life difficult for the Bobcats and an attempted clearance by Bismarck kicked off of Wandmacher’s skate and went straight to Briggs Orr defending the blueline. Orr had a forward pressuring him and needed to quickly advance the puck into the slot and onto the tape of Hunter Hanson in the slot. Hanson one-timed it ahead to the forehand of Peterson and then on his backhand skating left to right where he lifted it up over the left pad and glove of Linards Lipskis to make it a 1-0 game at the 13:49 mark.
The game would remain 1-0 but not for a lack of effort by the Norsemen as they outshot the Bobcats 10-7 in the third, leading that category 36-23 for the contest. Bismarck had six power play chances in the game, with three being in the third period including a double minor, but the Norsemen killed them all off. This in contrast to just one power play chance for St. Cloud. Ethan Dahlmeir made 23 saves in the victory, his third shutout of the season, while Lipskis had 35 stops but it wasn’t enough as St. Cloud came away with victory and kept Bismarck from getting any points on the weekend.
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz feels the will and determination of the Norsemen was key in the victory. “I would say a lot of that comes from past results. There were times we were in the lead and ultimately lost and you learn from some of your mistakes. We put a huge emphasis on the points that are available and understanding how crucial and important it is to get them and to not give them to anybody else,” explains Kautz. “The buy-in I thought was really good and everyone was doing the little things to try to hold that lead and win a game.”
The double minor in the third period could have been a fly in the ointment for St. Cloud but killing that off became a highlight of the night. “I think the best part is they just looked at each other and said ‘Let’s kill this off and go win a hockey game’,” Kautz notes. “Special teams is obviously a huge part of the game but the guys that were called upon did their job. All in all it was a gutty team effort and we were pleased to come away with the win.”
St. Cloud not only won to stay in second place all alone but gained ground on the Austin Bruins who fell to Aberdeen 2-0. North Iowa remained red hot with a come-from-behind 5-4 regulation victory in Minot after they trailed 4-1. St. Cloud sits two points ahead of Aberdeen and North Iowa who are tied for 3rd and the last two teams in postseason positions. The Norsemen now lead Minot by 7 points and Bismarck by 9, the two teams in the Central Division on the outside looking in of the playoff picture.
Up next for the Norsemen is a road trip to take on the Minot Minotauros on Friday and Saturday March 17th and 18th. Those games can be viewed on hockeytv.com.
The next home contest for St. Cloud will be on Thursday, March 30th, with the Austin Bruins in town. Tickets can be purchased online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.