February 23, 2013 - North American Hockey League (NAHL) - Bismarck Bobcats
AUSTIN, MN - The Bismarck Bobcats fell in the shootout 4-3 Friday at Riverside Arena against the Austin Bruins but used the point gained to lock up their fifth straight postseason appearance, becoming the second Central Division team to clinch a playoff spot.
"Getting into the playoffs is key, so we're happy to know we'll be playing hockey in April," stated Bobcats head coach and general manager Layne Sedevie, who has now presided over three straight playoff teams behind the bench, "but it's not our priority or our goal right now. Our main focus is wrapping up home ice in the first round and then taking a run at [division-leading] Austin."
To that end, the Bobcats (27-14-6, 60 pts) saw their lead for second place- and home-ice advantage- slip to two points over third-place Brookings (27-17-4, 58 pts) slip to two points. The Bobcats still have one game in hand over the Blizzard.
Austin opened the scoring 3:06 into the game as league-leading scorer Brandon Wahlin fueled the Bruins' red-hot power play, firing a centering feed from Jay Dickman off the right post and in past Aaron Nelson to make it 1-0 for the home side.
Dan Kovar dialed up a response for the Bobcats with 1:37 to go in the first period, taking a puck kept in the offensive zone by Joe Giordano and blasting a slap shot through traffic that beat Bruin netminder Jason Pawloski five-hole to tie the game at one heading into the first intermission.
Pawloski and Nelson starred in the second period, combining for 20 saves to hold the game at 1-1 through 40 minutes.
Cody Dixon notched the Bruins' second power play goal of the night to give Austin a 2-1 lead, lifting a rising shot through traffic that Nelson couldn't find 1:31 into the third.
Just 1:24 later, Stanislav Dzakhov answered back for the Bobcats, sneaking behind Dixon on a long clear-out by Mike Dockry and diving to his right to tuck the puck past Pawloski for a 2-2 tie.
Patrick Moore gave the Bobcats their first lead at 3-2 a mere 2:20 after Dzakhov's equalizer, redirecting a Giordano wrister at point-blank range.
Nelson and the Bobcats held the Bruins off the board until there was 2:29 left in the game when an up-ice rush from Wahlin wound up on the stick of Drew Anderson, who popped a rolling puck over the Bobcat goalie for a 3-3 tie, eventually forcing overtime.
"I thought we played pretty well tonight except a couple key breakdowns, including that last goal," lamented Sedevie. "We got forwards caught in deep and we gave their most dangerous player too much room to operate; left a point on the table right there."
Neither side could break through in bonus hockey, though the Cats held a 4-1 shot advantage in the five-minute period, necessitating a shootout.
Moore and Adam Knochenmus were able to get goals for the Bobcats but strikes from Dickman, Anderson and Riley Colvard sealed a 4-3 win for the homestanding Bruins.
Nelson made 24 stops but suffered his fourth non-regulation loss of 2012-13. Pawloski netted his 14^th win on 30 saves.
The Bobcats will wrap up their three-game road swing Saturday with a 7:05 rematch with the Bruins at Riverside Arena.