The St. Cloud Norsemen will welcome the Bismarck Bobcats into the MAC and central Minnesota for a pair of games this weekend. On the line for St. Cloud is their five-game winning streak and the recently acquired position of sitting in a postseason spot in the NAHL Central Division standings, something Bismarck has their coveting eye on. The Bobcats sit a lone point back and could overtake St. Cloud in the standings outright with a regulation victory Friday night.
“They certainly are playing well, it appears,” compliments St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen. “We haven’t seen them in a little while but they’re obviously scoring goals and playing well. It’s going to be a hard fought weekend.”
Bismarck is 5-0-1 in their last six games and have scored 31 goals over that span. During that run they’ve scored six or more in half their games and have scored no less than three in any of those contests, averaging 5.17 goals per game. They’ve also picked up at least a point in seven straight games. And while the Bobcats offense has been red-hot as of late it’s been very good all season; their 3.53 goals per game for the 2022-23 campaign is 4th among the 29 NAHL teams.
When asked about how they’re scoring in such waves, Millen pointed out they’re not a team that relies just on one player or one line. “They’ve got depth; they’re getting goals in all sorts of ways, which is obviously nice for them,” Millen notes. “We’ve got to have a concerted effort to keep pucks out of our net and be disciplined and play well.”
One area the Norsemen have a noticeable edge is special teams. Bismarck’s power play is 11th in the NAHL, converting 20.7% of the time, but St. Cloud scores on 22.5% of their chances, good for 7th in the league. The big disparity is when down a man; the Norsemen’s 84.9% kill rate on the penalty kill is 6th in the NAHL but the Bobcats PK unit is only successful 76.1% of the time, 25th of the 29 teams.
When asked if drawing penalties against a team with a struggling penalty kill unit like Bismarck’s is an area of emphasis, Millen didn’t seem like he was at all concerned with doing anything out of the ordinary. “It’s nice if your special teams are playing well, there’s no question that that can impact a game/series,” admits Millen. He continues, “But I think we just want to continue to work on things and continue to get better and hopefully we can score some goals and get some opportunities off of it.”
This weekend will be the first half of a four-game series between the two teams, with the back half switching to Bismarck. Millen concedes that establishing a good tone in game one is important, but didn’t want to get too focused on how many straight they’ll see the Bobcats. “Certainly we’re going to want to start on time on Friday and come out with a solid, good effort,” Millen acknowledges. He then quickly shifts, pointing out “There’s no sense in worrying about how many games we’ll see them or too far down the road. We just need to play Friday as it comes and hopefully play well Friday.”
The games get underway Friday and Saturday night at the MAC with the puck dropping both nights at 7:00 pm. And if you’re a college student we’re rolling out a new special for the remainder of the regular season; bring a valid college ID with you to the game and you’ll get a Coors Light Chill Zone ticket for just $5. You’ll get to sit at the end the Norsemen shoot at twice, make some noise and hopefully distract the opponent’s goalie, and for college students 21+ you’ll also get a chance to purchase 16 oz. Coors and Coors Light pounders all game long.
For all tickets, Chill Zone or not, go to tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.