Bismarck 4 @ Austin 1 (Bismarck wins series, 3-1) - The Bismarck Bobcats rattled off four straight goals and clinched their fourth consecutive Central Division championship as they defeated the Austin Bruins 4-1 Saturday at Riverside Arena, winning the best-of-five game Central Division Finals 3-1. The series victory punches the Bobcats’ ticket to their third Robertson Cup Tournament in four seasons. It was the Bruins who got the scoring started 8:14 into the game when Chris Fischer tallied a power play goal, striking a one-timer past Bobcat netminder Aaron Nelson to put the home side ahead 1-0 and get the raucous crowd of 1,778 on its feet. Dan Kovar helped the Bobcat power play respond late in the period, intercepting an attempted clear by Austin’s Connor Quinn and whipping a slap-pass to a wide-open Adam Knochenmus, who put it into a virtually empty net—Bruins goalie Tyler Bruggeman committed to a shot by Kovar—to even the score at 1-1 with 4:59 to go in the first. A perfect back-door pass from Tyler Richter put the Bobcats ahead 1:06 into the second as Richter found Patrick Moore alone on the far post for a six-inch tap-in and a 2-1 score in favor of the visitors. From there, Nelson and Bruggeman took over, combining for 20 saves over the rest of the period, including point-blank denials both ways to keep it a one-goal game after two. In the third, Buster Hebda tacked on some big-time insurance when he blasted a back-door pass from Kovar over Bruggeman to push to the lead to 3-1 with 9:53 left in regulation. In a last-ditch bid at a comeback the Bruins pulled Bruggeman with less than three minutes remaining but, despite extended time on the forecheck in the offensive zone, could not put another shot on Nelson thanks to a concerted shot-and-pass-blocking effort by the Bobcat defense. Jeremy O’Keefe finally broke up Austin’s pressure with less than a minute left and lofted a puck to center ice that Richter chased down and popped into the empty net to give the Bobcats the final margin of 4-1 with 32 seconds left in the game. Nelson, making his sixth straight start of the playoffs, made 29 saves to improve to 5-1 on the 2012 postseason. Bruggeman turned aside 33 stops but finished the playoffs with a 4-4 record. Boxscore
St. Louis 5 @ Springfield 3 (St. Louis wins series, 3-1) – The St. Louis Bandits scored three goals in the 2nd period on their way to a 5-3 win at the Nelson Center in Springfield as they captured the Midwest Division Playoff title, 3 games to 1. It was the Jr. Blues who got on the board first as Chris Sitler was finally able to break through after some great saves by Bandits goalie Spencer Viele to make it 1-0. Ryan Zehnder tied the game at 1-1 with just over five minutes remaining in the opening period. Frank Dichiara, Ryan Hogland and Greg Johnson all scored in the 2nd period for the Bandits to break the game open and get some pucks behind Springfield goalie Gabe Antoni. Kyle Cook had the lone marker in the period for Springfield. The Jr. Blues cut the lead to within 4-3 on Josef Pontasch’s goal, but Viele held the fort the rest of the way and an empty-net goal from Drew Kariofiles sealed the win for the Bandits. Viele had 26 saves in the win, while Antoni made 24 saves in the loss. Boxscore
Note: A complete 2012 Robertson Cup Tournament schedule will be posted on Monday, April 30th.