The St. Cloud Norsemen went into Bismarck as the state of North Dakota was littered with snow and came away with 3 points and a weekend series victory over the Bobcats.
Despite these two teams just having played each other the prior weekend, the first period felt more like a feeling out period than either team truly testing the other. The frame contained no goals and 18 shots on goal with the home team getting 11 of those 18 shots. A big reason for that shot volume and discrepancy was because of four power plays, three for the Bobcats and just one for the Norsemen.
Early in the second period, Bobcat winger Kyle Doll poked the puck free from the right wing boards in the Bismarck defensive end out to neutral ice which sprung Alexander Palchik. Palchik had half a step on the last defenseman and avoided a poke check from St. Cloud goalie Tomáš Boľo, going backhand-forehand to tap in a goal 2:36 into the second. It looked as if that lead would hold up through the second intermission but a late Luke Roelofs interference penalty put St. Cloud on the power play and they capitalized. Duke Kiffin fed the puck up to Kade Peterson who got it to the red line and dumped it into the corner from left to right. Blake Perbix tied up his man and bought time for Daniels Murnieks to skate onto the puck in the corner. The Bobcat skaters got sucked out of position and Murnieks found Ryan Cutler all alone in the slot. Cutler had plenty of time and patiently skated over from right to left and roofed a backhanded shot above the outstretched Bobcat goalie Hunter Garvey with 2.5 seconds left in the period to leave the crown stunned into silence going into the third.
One penalty resulted in both goals in the third period as the Bobcats were on the man advantage and one of the skaters was stick-handling behind the goal line when a teammate of his cut in front of him and caused him to cough up the puck. Jeremiah Konkel wasted no time and pounced on it, shooting as soon as he got to the puck and quickly giving the Norsemen a 2-1 lead 2:25 into the third. But 34 seconds later the Bobcats converted on the power play when Michael Neumeier teed up a puck fed to him at the point that deflected and was tracked down by Evan Hunter. Hunter made a cross ice pass to Vertti Jantunen low at the right circle and Jantunen one-timed it into the top right corner just under the crossbar to tie the game 2-2. No other penalties would be called in the game and we would head to overtime with Bismarck outshooting St. Cloud 10-6 in the last period and 33-24 through regulation.
Both teams had chances in the overtime frame but with time winding down Landon Fandel controlled the puck behind his net and made a breakout pass to Brandon Reller on the left side; Reller handed it off to Erik Atchison who had turned and gained momentum just in front of his own goaltender. Atchison skated up the left side with speed and as soon as he got to the top of the left circle slalomed hard to the right circle and then shot against his momentum, tucking the puck into the lower left corner of the net to score the game winner with 9.8 seconds remaining in overtime. St. Cloud picked up a point for the overtime loss and both teams ended the night deadlocked in the standings with identical 7-8-2 records and 16 points in the standings.
That tie wouldn’t last through the weekend though as the Norsemen did something Saturday night they’ve struggled to on the year; score the game’s first goal and particularly, score it early in the contest. Norsemen defenseman Wyatt Wurst took the puck behind his own cage and found Hunter Hanson on the left side in front of the St. Cloud bench, who made a quick exchange to Konkel who shot up the boards with a full head of steam. Konkel’s backhanded shot from a tough angle ended up at the opposite side of the net where Hogan Sinjem tracked it down and fed it to Hanson who had crept it on the back side and was unaccounted for; Hanson swept it into the yawning net just 1:54 into the game. Just under ten minutes later Bismarck responded with Julian Beaumont scoring his sixth of the season on a rebound but less than five minutes later St. Cloud would regain the lead. Again the Norsemen broke out from their defensive left circle with Andrew Knapp getting the puck ahead to Jordan Zelenak who fed Evan Pahos. Pahos charged the net and had the puck knocked off his tape but it fell to Knapp who snapped a shot that left a rebound for Zelank who lifted it over Garvey to score his first goal with the Norsemen 16:16 into the game. The Bobcats would answer just over two minutes later with an Ian Engel goal that beat Ethan Dahlmeier five-hole at the 18:31 mark to even things up at 2-2.
St. Cloud outshot their opponent 13-11 in the first and was even more decisive in the SOG advantage in the second 13-7, which helped them explode on the scoreboard. Norsemen defenseman Adam Nedelka pressured Doll just outside of the Bismarck blueline and kicked the puck into the offensive third where Zelenak was in hot pursuit. Zelenak picked the pocket of Engel and swept the puck into the left corner. Zelenak couldn’t track the puck down until it was below the goal line but saw that goaltender wasn’t set and immediately threw it to the net, banking it in off of Garvey’s left skate and watched it slowly trickle over the goal line to give the Norsemen a 3-2 lead just 2:41 into the second. St. Cloud would double their lead when on the second of back-to-back offensive zone faceoffs Sinjem walked the puck into the corner and then was knocked off it but that left it for Konkel who took it towards the net below the goal line. Then before reaching the net he tossed it to the top of the crease where Hanson popped it up high, glove-side on Garvey to score his second of the game. All five skaters would get involved in their last goal of the period which came on the power play. Hanson came in with speed up the left side then handed off to Duke Kiffin in the middle of the point. Hanson skated over to the right and those two played pitch and catch before Kiffin slid it to the left side and Daniels Murnieks. Murnieks fed Konkel down low at the goal line and Konkel found Cutler at the far right side who one-timed home a goal past a diving Garvey 13:38 into the second. The Norsemen would confidently skate off the ice and into the locker room with a commanding 5-2 lead.
Bismarck would give up a healthy amount of shots in the third period as well, this time 12, but button down defensively and keep the Norsemen off the scoresheet for the first two thirds of the period. With the clock winding down the Bobcats rolled the dice and pulled their netminder, allowing them some offensive zone time on the 6 on 5. But when Wyatt Wurst tracked a puck down low along the right side boards he spun, getting it to Sinjem atop the circle. Sinjem, facing Wurst and with his back to the blue line he wanted to exit, saw an open Broten Sabo and made a backwards pass to the defenseman. Sabo skated it just beyond his defensive circles and from the middle of the ice launched a 140-foot shot that kissed off the left side post and in at 13:35 of the third period. The Norsemen would pile on one more with less than a minute and a half remaining when Sinjem threw the puck across the ice to Kiffin at the left point. Kiffin then fed it to Jake Hosszu on the right side and Hosszu’s snapshot was just above the right pad of Garvey’s and found its way into the left side of the net at the 18:27 mark.
The victory gave the Norsemen two points on the night and three points on the weekend, giving them a little more separation from the Bobcats in the Central Division standings. St. Cloud also gained two points on the two teams just ahead of them in the standings, North Iowa and Minot, the latter being their opponent this coming weekend. If the Norsemen could knock off the Minotauros in regulation both nights at home at the MAC they would catch Minot in points with a game in hand and could theoretically leapfrog them and North Iowa, whom they’ll have two games in hand on by weekend’s end.
The home games are the first of three straight games in St. Cloud, including a contest the night before Thanksgiving vs. the Austin Bruins. Minot and St. Cloud battle this Friday and Saturday November 18th and 19th and tickets are available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.