by John Peterson
For just the second time this season, the Austin Bruins (28-12-1) were defeated on their home ice, after falling 4-2 to the Bismarck Bobcats (25-13-4) Friday night at Riverside Arena in Austin.
As both teams struggled to generate offense out of the gate, the Bruins benefited from the old cliche, “When you put pucks on net, good things will happen.” Rookie Trey Dodd (St. Louis, MO) scored the only goal of the first period when his shot from the top of the right circle bounced off of a Bobcat defenseman in front and past Aaron Nelson (Bismarck, ND) for Dodd’s ninth goal of the season. Austin forward Niko Hildenbrand (Vacaville, CA) was injured on a check in front of the scorer’s table at the 11:12 mark of the period, and was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher after a lengthy delay. Hildenbrand returned to the rink to join his teammates after the game and was in good spirits. Bismarck outshot the Bruins 11-8 in the opening frame.
Bismarck came out in the second period and scored two quick goals to take its first lead of the night. Matt Anders (Lafayette, CO) tied the game at 1-1 on a wide-open look from low in the slot. Then, 27 seconds later, Nathan Flynn (Hastings, MN) tapped in a loose puck out of a goal-mouth scramble. The Bruins tied the game at 2-2 on a bullet from the stick of Austin Nelson (Hastings, MN) that was labeled for the top shelf, but the Bobcats quickly answered on the power-play on a one-timer in the right circle from Tyler Dunagan (Maple Grove, MN). The Bobcats carried the 3-2 lead through the remaining 14 minutes of the second period into the intermission.
The Bruins had several great scoring chances in the third period to tie the game, but Aaron Nelson closed the door with help from his defense in front of the net. In the final minute, the Bobcats put the game away with an empty netter from Huba Sekesi (Munich, Germany) to complete the 4-2 win. It was the first defeat for the Bruins at home since a December 13th loss to Brookings. Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN) made 28 saves for Austin in the loss, while Aaron Nelson turned away 29 Bruins shots.
Austin and Bismarck will skate again Saturday night at 7:05pm at Riverside Arena in what will be the Bruins’ last game in the lower 48 states, before traveling to Alaska Wednesday for five games in ten days against Kenai River and Fairbanks. Saturday’s weekend finale can be seen on fasthockey.com or 1480AM KAUS.