BISMARCK, ND – Despite holding the lead past the midway point of the third period, the Bruins surrendered two unanswered goals to the Bobcats falling in Bismarck by the final score of 3-2.
On the road against a division rival, the Bruins got the early edge by scoring first thanks to Hugh Larkin’s twentieth goal of the season. The Livonia, MI, native lofted a wrister past Bobcats goalie John Roberts less than five minutes into the game for the 1-0 lead.
That score would remain as both teams headed to the locker room after 20 minutes of play. Out of the gate in the second, the Bruins had better control of the ice but weren’t able to find their second goal of the game. Instead, it was Bismarck who evened things up with a goal from Tim Piechowski, his tenth of the season.
In the third, much like in the first, the Bruins were able to get on the board early. Jared Christy found some open space and was in on a mini-breakaway. His backhand shot on goal was stopped by Roberts, but Dante Zapata buried the rebound and gave the Bruins the 2-1 lead with 18 minutes remaining in the final frame. With the clock ticking down, Dante Zapata was called for boarding and sent to the box. The Bobcats used their power-play opportunity to even the score at 2-2. With the pace of play going back and forth, the Bobcats iced the game on a backhand chance from Alex Pollock. The shot changed direction and slid through the legs of Bruins goalie Kyle McClellan giving Bismarck the 3-2 lead with just 2:13 left in the third. Austin mounted a good comeback effort with the extra man in the final minute, but with just 17..5 seconds left to go, Lane Krenzen was called for interference giving Bismarck the power play once again. The puck never left the Bruins defensive zone and the clock struck zero with Bismarck hanging on for the victory, 3-2.
With the loss, the Bruins fall to 30-18-0-6 on the season. Bismarck’s win improves their record to 31-18-3-2 and the two standings points helped the leapfrog the Bruins for 3rd in the NAHL Central Division.
The two teams will meet on Saturday for a rematch, the final game of the regular season between the two clubs at VFW Sports Center. After Bismarck, the Bruins have three straight on the road, with Brookings first on Thursday, March 28 followed by a pair in Aberdeen on Friday and Saturday, March 29. Rounding out the regular season, the Bruins host the Bismarck Bobcats at Riverside Arena on Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6. Tickets for those games will go on sale Monday, April 1 at all the Bruins vendors including Games People Play, Hy-Vee, Holiday Inn, and Jim’s Marketplace.