The St. Cloud Norsemen head west this weekend to take on the Bismarck Bobcats as the two teams switch venues but continue their four game series over back-to-back weekends. The two squads split a series over the weekend in St. Cloud with the Norsemen prevailing 5-3 on Friday and the Bobcats evening things up with a 3-1 victory Saturday.
The Bobcats have a smaller lineup than most NAHL teams, as Friday five of the twelve forwards they dressed stand 5’9” or shorter; on Saturday it was six of thirteen. In contrast, the Norsemen only had one forward in the lineup each game under 5’10”. In addition to being on the shorter side, Bismarck is on the lighter side: in both games vs. the Norsemen the Bobcats dressed eight players 170 lbs or lighter, while St. Cloud had just two players not meet that threshold on Friday and three on Saturday.
Some of the most damage Bismarck does on the scoresheet is coming from their smaller and lighter forwards, however. The Bobcats have eight players with eight or more points; five are 5’9 or shorter and four are less than 170 pounds. St. Cloud is well aware that while Bismarck lacks size, they still find success. “They’re not the biggest team but they’re really skilled, they’re quick so you gotta be good with your gaps, good in the defensive zone,” points out Norsemen defenseman Wyatt Wurst. “Then you gotta be opportunistic with your offensive chances because they’re also good defensively.”
Bismarck also generates a lot of physicality, despite giving up size to most opponents. “They play hard, they play with pace, they play physical, they finish checks, they do all the things that you like to see in a team,” compliments St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz. “We know that it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to have to play sixty minutes. We went up there last time and we didn’t get the results we wanted so we’re gonna have to be ready to play at a high level if we wanna earn two points each night.”
Interestingly enough, St. Cloud may have a slight edge playing at the VFW Sports Center this weekend; both teams have better records on the road than at home. St. Cloud is .500 on the road with a record of 4-4-0-0 but Bismarck has won just two of their eight home games with a mark of 2-4-1-1. The Bobcats have a propensity for scoring the first goal of the game; they’ve done so in 12 of their 16 games but they’ve won just five of those games, going 5-5-1-1 when scoring first. While St. Cloud has fared much better after scoring the first goal of the game, winning 80% of those games, but in a much smaller sample size as they’ve scored first in just five of their 16 games.
One thing is certain; with both teams currently outside of a playoff spot, points this weekend will be critical to getting either team into a better postseason position heading into the 2023 portion of the season. St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen has no doubt the fans will see two hungry teams on the ice this weekend. “I would expect both teams to be very intense and competitive. Both teams need to get better and get points if they want to move into the playoff situation,” Millen reasons. “I would expect it to be very competitive with both teams working really hard.”
The elephant in the room may be the last time these teams met in Bismarck the game got chippy in the third period. Over 200 penalty minutes were dished out in the game and each team was hit with suspensions, but that is in the past as far as the Norsemen are concerned. This past weekend with the teams playing in St. Cloud neither team came close to their per game penalty minutes average in either contest and over both nights no penalties more severe than a 2-minute minor were awarded. Kautz doesn’t anticipate any sort of repeat from the last game in Bismarck between these two squads. “Everyone knows what happened last time but it’s definitely behind us,” assures Kautz. “We’re just gonna go out there and play our game and hopefully put a good product on the ice for us to find success against Bismarck.”
For fans going to the games they may have to brave some treacherous roads as Bismarck has been hit with 15 inches of snow and counting as of Thursday evening. Fortunately, you don’t have to do any traveling to enjoy the games, as both games will be broadcast on hockeytv.com with the puck drop slated for 7:15 pm each night.
As for the next time you can see the Norsemen play at the MAC, the Minot Minotaurous will visit St. Cloud on Friday, November 18th and Saturday, November 19th. Tickets are available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com. And while you’re there, check out the new feature of the Coors Light Chill Zone; for a $13 ticket, fans 21+ can enjoy the benefit of purchasing $2 Coors and Coors Light 16 oz. “pounders” all game long.