Bobcats claim fifth straight Central crown
Central Division Finals, Game #4
Austin Bruins 1 @ Bismarck Bobcats 2 (Bismarck wins series, 3-1)
(By Paul Teeple) For the fifth consecutive season, the Bismarck Bobcats have captured the Central Division title, ousting the top-seeded Austin Bruins with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in Game Four of the Central Division Finals Saturday at the VFW Sports Center to clinch the best-of-five-game series 3-1.
It was the regular-season division champion Bruins who struck first Saturday, though, as second-year veteran A.J. Reid launched home a Riley Colvard into a largely open net as Bobcat netminder Aaron Nelson scrambled to recover, boosting the visitors to a 1-0 lead with 12:14 to go in the opening frame.
The on a power play late in the period, Matt Pohlkamp uncorked a low liner that Seth Blair redirected from two feet in front of Bruins goalie Jason Pawloski and inside the short post with 1:57 to go in the first to knot the game at one.
Nelson and Pawloski stole the show in the second period, combining for 31 saves including highlight-reel stops for both goaltenders to keep the game knotted at one through 40 minutes.
Early in the third, the Bobcats started a forecheck when Patrick Moore won the race to an icing call before falling awkwardly into the boards. Shaken up, Moore raced to the bench to avoid a stoppage as Nate Repensky fed the puck down the right wing to Adam Knochenmus, who hit a streaking Shane Omdahl for a back-door tap-in with 14:35 to go in regulation, lifting the Cats to a 2-1 edge.
Following Omdahl’s go-ahead tally, Austin turned up the heat, outshooting the Bobcats 9-3 over the final 14-plus minutes of the game.
Bruins head coach Chris Tok called time out with 3:08, setting up a crucial defensive stretch for the Cats. Austin nearly equalized it as a Ladislav Zikmund rebound rolled toward Jay Dickman, who had a wide-open net to shoot at with 1:22 left, but Omdahl swooped in and stole the puck before Dickman could get to it. In the final minute, Moore and Matt Anders made critical shot blocks to keep the puck from getting to Nelson.
Nelson submitted 36 saves to improve to 6-1 in the 2013 playoffs while Pawloski took his second loss of the postseason despite 36 stops of his own.
Robertson Cup Tournament play opens for the Bobcats, the tournament’s #3 seed, Friday at 4:30 PM at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Tex., where they will take on the winner of the Wenatchee/Fairbanks West Division Final series to kick off the North American Hockey League’s championship weekend. Fairbanks won Game Four 3-2 over Wenatchee Saturday, forcing a decisive Game Five Tuesday at Town Toyota Center.
Saturday’s triumph makes the Cats the third team to punch their tickets to Texas, joining the North Division champion Jamestown Ironmen and the South Division champion Amarillo Bulls.
West Division Finals, Game #4
Wenatchee Wild 2 @ Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3 (Best of 5 series tied, 2-2)
(By Ed Topowski) The Wenatchee Wild and Fairbanks Ice Dogs will battle for the fifth and final time in the divisional finals Tuesday at the Town Toyota in a do-or-die contest that will decide which team represents the West Division in the 2013 NAHL Robertson Cup Championship Tournament. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs forced the winner-takes-all Game 5 with a hard-fought 3-2 win Saturday at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The teams entered the third period Saturday tied 1-1. Joe Sullivan gave the Wild a 2-1 lead 7:21 into the third period when he buried a 5-hole shot on his backhand from the slot on a pass from Noah Nelson.
Wenatchee’s lead lasted just nine seconds when Colton Wolter forced the second time of the game on a pass from Brett Gervais. Taylor Munson went on to score the game-winning goal for the Ice Dogs on a quick-developing 2-on-1 with 6:11 left in regulation. Garret Clemment and Duggie Lagrone picked up the assists.
Both goalies played very well. Robert Nichols stopped Clemment on a breakaway with 70 seconds remaining in the first period. Clemment was awarded a penalty shot on the breakaway, and Nichols denied that attempt as well. In all, Nichols made 25 saves on 28 shots Saturday while his counterpart, Steve Perry, made 21 saves on 23 shots.
Max McHugh finally broke a scoreless tie 7:33 into the second period when he lit the lamp on a one-time from the slot after the Ice Dogs failed to clear the zone and turned the puck over. Jono Davis and Chris Kerr did the rest, cycling the puck to McHugh for the wide-open shot.
Wenatchee’s lead lasted only 13 seconds, however, when Lawrence Cornellier scored on an assist from Munson.
The Wild had a couple of golden scoring chances in the second period. One of those chances was on a Davis slapper from the point that rang off the near post during a man-advantage. The other came during a 2-on-1 late in the stanza, but Perry denied McHugh’s shot.
Nichols was strong again very late in the second period during a Fairbanks power play, making a couple of brilliant stops including a shot by Munson from pointblank range at the buzzer. Both teams went 0-for-3 Saturday on their man-advantage opportunities.
Game 5 will begin at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7th. The winner will be the #2 seed at the NAHL Robertson Cup National Championship Tournament.