The night went perfect for the St. Cloud Norsemen as they won 5-1 over the Bismarck Bobcats while getting help elsewhere as Austin and North Iowa beat Aberdeen and Minot in regulation respectively.
The Norsemen got on the board thanks to a fortuitous bounce. Andrew Clarke lead the rush up the right wing boards in the first period and fed Hogan Sinjem who took a shot but it was deflected out to the left point. Wyatt Wurst ripped a shot that kicked off the inside of a Bobcat defenseman’s skate and bounced in backside to give Wurst his first NAHL goal and give the home squad the lead 12:21 into the game. Bismarck got back to even when Evan Hunter set up a play darting around the right wing boards and centered a puck to Vertti Jantunen above the slot who rifled a shot above the blocker of Ethan Dahlmeir at 14:49. But St. Cloud went into the locker room with the lead thanks to a quick strike goal that got four Norsemen involved. Carter Bradley gloved down an attempted Bobcat clearance at the right point and on his backhand hit Elmeri Hällfors at the left point. Hällfors was patient and waited for a lane to open up and found Daniels Murnieks at the right circle. Murnieks fed a cross-crease pass to Anthony Ruklic who one-timed it home over Hunter Garvey’s outstretched right pad at the 16:57 mark.
St. Cloud got the only goal of the middle frame when Kade Peterson won a faceoff back to Broten Sabo and Sabo danced around an oncoming Bobcat before ripping a wrist shot from just inside the blueline that was tipped in by Hällfors who was cutting across the front of the crease, creating a screen. After outshooting Bismarck by a healthy margin of 19-9 in the first the Bobcats cut that margin in the second to 10-7 in favor of the Norsemen.
St. Cloud extended their lead early in the third period when Clarke chipped a puck up the right wing boards to himself, drew multiple Bobcats to him and hit Jack Wandmacher who was all alone on the left side of the ice. Garvey made an athletic windmill attempt but it wasn’t enough as Wandmacher tallied the goal 6:14 into the final frame. That was more than enough of a cushion as Dahlmeir made 24 saves in the victory and Sabo put an exclamation point on the game in the final ten seconds when a loose puck in the corner squirted free and he banked it off the right boards from his own zone and it slowly trickled into the empty net to make it a 5-1 final.
St. Cloud Assistant Coach Brock Kautz feels that goaltender Dahlmeir’s performance was very solid. “He was tracking the puck well tonight and I think he was getting to his spots to see pucks, fight through screens; I thought his rebound control was good and helped eliminate some of those chances,” praises Kautz. “We definitely got hemmed in a little bit with our ears pinned back and he was able to get a couple whistles for us that I thought were huge. He did a good job managing the game so anytime you only allow one you give your chance a really good chance to win.”
Twelve different Norsemen reached the scoresheet in the win with nobody registering more than two points so the boys were certainly sharing the offense. “It’s great to see guys contributing both with assists and goals and it’s fun to watch. When you get more guys clicking and working together and supporting it’s good to see that,” Kautz admits. “They don’t care who gets the goals and I think that’s the best part. The ability to share the puck and be happy for your teammates; it’s fun to watch.”
Thanks to a 2-1 regulation victory by the Austin Bruins in Aberdeen over the Wings, the Norsemen go to sleep all alone in second place with a 24-19-3-4 record and 55 points. St. Cloud has two more points than Aberdeen and a resurging North Iowa who are tied for third. Minot and Bismarck came into the weekend outside of a playoff spot and with regulation losses they both find themselves in a bigger hole as North Iowa won in Minot 3-1. Minot currently sits with 50 points while Bismarck has 48 with 11 games left in the regular season.
Saturday night the Norsemen are back at it on home ice and the MAC and will go for a sweep over the Bobcats on the weekend. Get your tickets online at: https://tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com/.