by John Peterson
For the first time since Feb. 8 last season, the Austin Bruins (39-19-1) won in Bismarck. It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Bruins scored three times in the final period to defeat the Bobcats (31-23-5) Friday night 4-1 at the VFW Center. With the win, Austin’s magic number to clinch the Central Division narrows to one point.
After Bismarck went 0-17 on the power-play last weekend in Austin, the Bobcats scored on their first man-advantage Friday night to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Zach Yon (Roseau, MN) fed a pass to the front of the net for Tyler Dunagan (Maple Grove, MN), who was left all alone, and Dunagan flipped the puck over the pad of Bruins goaltender Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN). Austin trailed 1-0 after one period, but led Bismarck in shots 15-7.
In the second period, it was the Bruins’ struggling power-play’s turn to strike. After a blocked shot was kicked out to the point, rookie Charlie Manley (Orchard Park, NY) rifled a blast into the top shelf for his first career goal to tie the game 1-1. The Bruins continued to open the gap in the shots department (24-10) as the teams went into the second intermission tied on the scoreboard.
The Bruins gained their first lead on a pretty passing play in the third period. Brian Bachnak (Riverview, MI) dropped off a pass for the trailer on the rush, Kody Reuter (Sioux City, IA), who skated into the left circle and slid a pass across the slot for Alex Pettersson (Ockero, Sweden). Pettersson snapped the one-timer by Bobcats’ goalie Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) to make it 2-1. Eli May (Eagan, MN) redirected a Reuter shot past Nelson later in the frame to open the lead to 3-1, and Nico Hildenbrand (Vacaville, CA) capped off the win with an empty-netter in the final minute. Lehr stopped 14 of 15 Bismarck shots in the win, as the Bruins inched closer to the division title.
The Bruins’ final game of the regular season is Saturday night at the VFW Center in Bismarck at 7:15pm. If Aberdeen loses to Wenatchee (late Friday) in regulation or overtime, Austin will clinch the Central Division from their hotel. If Aberdeen wins, the Bruins will need either a win or overtime loss Saturday, OR an Aberdeen loss Saturday. The game can be seen on fasthockey.com and 1480AM KAUS in Austin.