For the second weekend in a row the St. Cloud Norsemen will battle the Bismarck Bobcats but this weekend the venue will switch as the Norsemen travel out west to take on the Bobcats in North Dakota.
St. Cloud won the series last weekend but narrowly; picking up two points in a 2-0 shutout victory Friday night and a point on Saturday before ultimately falling in a shootout to Bismarck by a final of 2-1. Ethan Dahlmeir was in net for the Norsemen both nights and after surrendering just one goal on the weekend he was named the NAHL Bauer Hockey Central Division Star of the Week. Norsemen winger Tyler Dysart won that accolade the week before while Norsemen center Andrew Clarke is the reigning NAHL Forward of the Month, so in addition to the Norsemen picking up points in their last seven games, having a 6-0-1 record in that stretch, they’re starting to get attention from the league as well.
“At the beginning of the year we weren’t really earning those awards and part of that was we didn’t have a whole lot of team success,” admits St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz. “When you have team success, individuals start to get noticed and acknowledged. Lately, just being fortunate to get some wins, it’s brought a little more individual success for some of these guys. It’s good to get those awards, all those guys deserve it, but obviously at the end of the day they’re all more worried about getting wins for the team. But they’re grateful for those awards and the opportunity they’ve been given.”
More impressive for Dahlmeir and the Norsemen keeping the Bobcats to a lone goal is that Bismarck’s 3.40 goals per game is 5th of the 29 NAHL teams and they came into last weekend red-hot, having scored 28 goals in their previous five games and were on a 5-0-1 run. A big part of the plan is to try to keep the Bobcats offense at bay once against this weekend, though part of that may have been in Bismarck being short handed. NAHL teams can dress up to 19 skaters but in both Friday and Saturday’s games in St. Cloud the Bobcats each night only had 17; 11 skaters and 6 defensemen. The presumption is that Bismarck had a combination of injuries and illnesses that prevented them from being able to field a full squad.
“Any time you are maybe battling some sickness or injuries, time kind of heals both of those. I expect a lot of those guys to be healthier and in the lineup. It’s just that ‘next-man up’ mentality and I think that’s what they had for the guys that they called up and the guys that maybe don’t play a lot and had to play a lot,” Kautz hypothesizes. “They wanna prove something to the coach, that they should be trusted, and maybe earn more playing time. Sometimes those kids are playing with a lot more energy and enthusiasm because they wanna make sure they stay in the lineup when they get there.”
During the Norsemen’s six-game winning streak that just came to an end Saturday night, all games were regulation wins, meaning for six straight games the Norsemen’s opponent picked up zero points. Keeping your opposition from getting any points is almost as critical at this juncture of the season with a mere five points separating 2nd place from 6th place in the Central standings. “Obviously they’re right behind us in the standings so anytime you’re in that position you definitely don’t wanna give them any points,” Kautz points out. “It’s a tough building to play in and they usually bring a lot of energy from their fans and they’ve been doing that for a number of years, so it’s not gonna be an easy task. They were playing some really good hockey before they got their injuries, but even last weekend they hung in there and they played well and they did what they had to do. They were able to get some points out of it. We can expect a dogfight going into that building with the past that we’ve had with them.”
The games Friday and Saturday both have a puck drop of 7:15 pm scheduled and both can be seen online at www.hockeytv.com.
The Norsemen are next at home Friday and Saturday, February 17th and 18th vs. the Minot Minotauros. Friday the 17th will be Charlie Boike Night; 50% of the money from tickets sold will go towards the Charlie Boike Scholarship Fund. Also on Friday the 17th the first 100 fans will receive a free Norsemen winter beanie provided by Franklin Graphics & Outdoor Advertising. You can get your tickets for that game and all games at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.