The St. Cloud Norsemen battled in Aberdeen this weekend in a couple of low scoring games in which they had the lead in the third period both nights but weren’t able to hold onto and ultimately fell in a shootout 3-2 on Friday and in regulation 2-1 to the Wings on Saturday.
The weekend didn’t get off to the start the Norsemen wanted when they took back-to-back penalties ten seconds apart just over two minutes into Friday’s game, but they were able to kill off the full 1:50 of 5-on-3 advantage for Aberdeen as well as a penalty late in the period. The Wings getting the only three power play chances in the first led to them having a lopsided advantage in shots on goal in the frame but the only goal of the period was an even strength tally. Aberdeen’s Jackson Anderson backhanded a long pass up to Nikolai Tishkevich which allowed Tishkevich to snap a shot from the left wing that was kicked out by the right pad of Tomáš Boľo. Patrick O’Connell tracked down the rebound and his follow up shot bounced off a Norsemen player before it was punched away by Boľo’s blocker. Landon Parker took a swipe at the rebound and missed but tracked it down and spun around and fired a shot in one motion through a sea of bodies that Boľo got a piece of but not all of and it trickled in off his glove at 16:16 of the period to give the Wings a 1-0 lead after one.
The tables turned in the second period when the Norsemen got three of the four power play chances and while their first goal was technically even strength, an Aberdeen penalty for too many men on the ice contributed to it. Broten Sabo took a puck up the right wing boards in the closing seconds of a Rambow power play and fed Tyler Dysart who was crashing in tight to the net from the slot. Dysart’s shot went wide but he collected the loose puck and passed it up to Nik Hong at the left point. Hong skated into the slot and took a hard, low shot about shin-high that Kade Peterson, who was parked just outside the crease, redirected up over the shoulder of Geno Pichora. The goal tied the game 4:40 into the period, just one second after the Wings had gotten back to full strength. The Norsemen again found pay dirt thanks to a Wings penalty, this time when they were whistled for boarding. Sabo from center ice at the top of the umbrella and Peterson from the top of the right circle played pitch and catch with the puck back and forth for some time before Peterson snapped a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot to the far side of the net, over the pad under the blocker, to give St. Cloud a 2-1 lead at 15:36 that they took into the second intermission.
Aberdeen converted on their fifth and final power play chance of the contest when Parker skated up the right side and seemed to lose control of the puck but it floated right to O’Connell along the boards who one-timed it over to the left side where Kyle Contessa’s shot beat Boľo to the post as he slid from left to right. That goal at 12:32 of the third was the only score of the period and while St. Cloud got all four shots on goal in the overtime frame none of them would solve Pichora, so the two teams would go to a shootout. The first five chances were stopped and Aberdeen’s Dylan Wegner scored the game winner in the third round when the right-handed shot cut hard to the left and at the last second maneuvered back to the right and tucked it in on his forehand to give the Wings the extra point and the 3-2 victory.
Boľo was given the net again for St. Cloud on Saturday while he was countered by Aberdeen starting Cole Moore and the two goaltenders played an absolute duel, keeping the game scoreless through the first two periods and combining to stop 34 shots in the opening 40 minutes.
Early in the third period an offensive zone faceoff for St. Cloud was cleared by Aberdeen but tracked down at neutral ice by Sabo. Sabo dumped the puck in but at a sharp angle from left to right that was skated onto by Hunter Hanson. Hanson went below the right circle and from a tough angle took a shot that was kicked out by Moore and the rebound collected by Blake Perbix from the left side of the ice. Perbix made a handoff to Sabo who floated a backhanded shot that arched up about a foot above the crossbar and floated in over the right shoulder of Moore just 65 seconds into the third period. Moore had difficulty tracking the puck and lost it in part due to traffic out front of the crease including several Aberdeen players and St. Cloud’s Daniels Murnieks. By the time the netminder could relocate it it was too late and for a good portion of the third period that goal looked like it may stand up as the game winner.
But with less than five minutes left in the third a wraparound attempt by Alex Gullichsen was stopped by Boľo and the loose puck was sent off the glass and up to the blue line but not out, kept in by Jackson Anderson. Anderson gloved it down to himself and took a seeing eye shot from just inside the offensive zone that had three different Norsemen from various depths in front of the net attempting to block his shot. As the shot found a path around all of them they inadvertently became a screen for Boľo and the puck found the back of the net just inside the far post at 15:19 of the third. St. Cloud had a chance in the offensive zone in the final minute of the tied affaird but couldn’t get a shot off and in transition Aberdeen’s captain Owen Dubois passed down low to Logan Gravink who got it back to Dubois at the right faceoff dot. Dubois sniped a shot top shelf on the short side that found the back of the net with 23.0 seconds left on the clock and the last minute backbreaker was the game winner and gave the Wings the series victory.
Aberdeen has the sixth best home record of the 29 NAHL teams and showed why the Odde Ice Center is one of the most difficult barns to play in this past weekend. St. Cloud battled tough both nights and in each game held a 3rd period lead but were just unable to hold on as the Wings battled back for consecutive victories. Up next for the Norsemen are three more road games this weekend as they will play in Minot on three consecutive nights beginning this Thursday, January 5th. Those games can all be seen online at hockeytv.com.
St. Cloud’s next home contest is Saturday, January 14th, when they will host the Austin Bruins to finish up a home-and-home after traveling to Austin, MN the night before. You can get your tickets online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.