Posted by: Feldman
It looks like the Bismarck Bobcats and Austin Bruins got the memo from the NHL: Make sure Game 1 of your playoff series is entertaining and goes to overtime.
Austin's 5-4 OT victory on Friday in Game 1 of the North American Hockey League Central Division Finals series wasn't always entertaining for the coaches, but it was for the fans.
Two of the top 4-5 goalies in the league, two teams that played good defense in their last three playoff games and two teams that are generally responsible in their defensive zone first. Naturally, they're going to combine for seven first-period goals.
Austin was not good for the first six minutes of the game and it fell behind 3-0. It was similar to Game 1 of the Minot series, except the Bruins were at least scoring in that game. It's as poor a stretch as I've seen this team have. Luckily, head coach Chris Tok called his timeout 5:50 into the game and that was the kick in the rear end the Bs needed. They scored twice in the next 2:20 to pull within 3-2 and make it a different game.
It was 4-3 Bismarck by the end of the first, and it stayed that way until Niko Hildenbrand tied the score :39 into the third period.
That set the stage for Sam Kauppila -- in his first game back after a three-week injury absence -- to score the game winner on a backhand shot in OT. (For the record, Tok said they had someone ready to run to the grocery store for bananas and oranges for the players, had the game gone to a second OT. They did that last week in a 3-OT win at Minot).
Game 2 is at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Riverside Arena.
Game 1 coverage:
Game notes and quotes:
* Austin's second-leading scorer, F Guillaume Leclerc, did not play because of a family emergency. He flew back to his home in Franois, France, on Friday. No timetable is known for his return. Thoughts and prayers out to him and his family.
* Bismarck's leading scorer, D Nate Repensky, also didn't play. He's out for the season with a broken leg.
* Bruins F Jay Dickman was the only player on either team with more than one point. He had two assists.
* Bruins forwards Kauppila and Brian Bachnak tied for a game-high with six shots on goal.
* Austin controlled overtime, outshooting Bismarck 7-1. The Bobcats buzzed on their first two shifts, but Lehr squared up to Stanislav Dzakhov and made a routine save on a hard wrist shot on the first shift of OT, the only shot of the period for the Cats.
* No one in Bismarck's lineup had more than three shots on goal.
* The Bobcats players and coaches were visibly upset and frustrated that Dzakhov wasn't awarded a penalty shot in the second period when he was hauled down on a breakaway. Instead, Bruins defenseman Lucas Kohls was given a two-minute minor for tripping and the Bruins killed the power play. Austin goalie Nick Lehr also made a nice pad save on another breakaway by Dzakhov in the second.
* Kauppila hit a pipe on an odd-man rush just seconds before scoring the winner. The goal judge actually flipped the red light on briefly and the crowd at Riverside Arena reacted to that, thinking a goal had been scored.
QUOTES, QUOTES, QUOTES...
Bruins F Trey Dodd:
* On the OT game-winning goal: "Just needed a shot on net, that's all it took. Have to have bodies in front. I couldn't see the play happen."
* On facing an early 3-0 deficit: "That slow start definitely hurt us. The timeout coach called got our heads back into the game. We needed it, for sure. We came out, got two goals right away and got right back into the game."
* What does rallying mean to both teams: "It's going to give us the momentum going into Game 2. Have to follow it up and not let them do it tomorrow."
* What his line (with Easton Viitala & Alex Pettersson) does well: "We try to get bodies to the net. That's part of our job, to make sure the other team doesn't have time with the puck ... get into corners, get the puck out, get shots on net."
* On Nick Lehr's play after the Bobcats' 3-0 start: "He took an earful, but he got himself back into it. That's what makes him the goalie he is and that's why he is where he is today."
* On possibly going up 2-0: "It'd be huge. I wouldn't say we'd relax at all, but it'd give us the feeling that we can do anything."
* Thoughts on tomorrow's game: "The biggest thing to our game tonight was having fun. We have to carry that over to tomorrow, have fun and not be satisfied (with this win)."
Bruins F Sam Kauppila:
* Thoughts on being back in a game after a three-week injury layoff: "A little tired, but fought through it. Boys were supportive. It's tough to watch the team play and not be out there, but I'm glad we could get it done tonight."
* Could you see where you were shooting on the game-winning goal?: "It was just kind of a reaction, just kind of a blind shot."
* What was it like when down 3-0: "We kept it positive. We knew we could battle back and we did."
* Did you send a message to Bismarck that you guys won't go away?: "The first game is huge, it sets the tempo for the whole series and we felt like we did that tonight."
* On possibly going up 2-0: "That would be huge. That's our goal. Rest up tonight, be ready tomorrow."
Bruins head coach Chris Tok:
* What did you say when you took timeout 5:50 into the game: "That this is a series, it's not a game. We have to play right now. We talk about it all the time; what's important right now? We can't change the first five minutes of that period, so let's start playing hockey and see what happens. Fortunately we got a goal right after it, but basically we just started skating."
* The job G Nick Lehr did after getting down 3-0: "I'd say I had the trigger ready to pull here because of the way the last series started (an 8-6 loss to Minot in Game 1 of the division semis). We took a different approach to him one-on-one and this time he snapped out of it.
"That's what he has to be able to do. Against Minot he wasn't able to do it, tonight he did it in a big way. He made some big saves, but more than that, he didn't give up rebounds. Any time they got some pressure, he kept the puck. That's big for us. It stops their momentum, allows us to change. That was just as big as the saves he made."
* How nice was it to have Kauppila back in: "It's great to have his energy back. I don't think he played the greatest game for what he's capable of doing, but he did have fresh legs and a lot of energy. He had a smile on his face all night. Even when things weren't going well tonight, he still had energy.
"He was the one guy I could see on his face, he kind of had this wry smile the entire game."
* How big is it to win Game 1 in a series vs a rival: "It's really crucial. They were playing a short bench. They weren't rolling all their guys. They got that 3-0 lead and had a lot of positive vibes going. You could see it in how they were skating and carrying themselves. For us to take this one, basically steal it away from them, it's really gonna hit them.
"We have to come out tomorrow night right out of the gate and play well. They're not going to quit. Bismarck never quits, but this definitely was a good body blow and makes them breathe a little harder."
AROUND THE NAHL
* South division runner-up Topeka edged division champ Amarillo 3-2 in Game 1 of their division finals series.
* In Game 1 of the North Division finals, Port Huron and Michigan made a run at breaking the 6-day-old record for longest game played in NAHL history. Austin and Minot went 116 minutes, 57 seconds last Saturday. On Friday, Michigan's Colin Larkin scored 5:37 into the third OT for a 1-0 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
* In Game 1 of the Midwest Division Finals, Wenatchee (Wash.) shut out Fairbanks 4-0. Wenatchee had won 29 games all season, while Fairbanks led the NAHL with 91 points. Wenatchee held the Ice Dogs scoreless on seven power-play attempts.
* With the new setup of the Robertson Cup playoffs, Bruins fans should be rooting for Wenatchee. If Austin and Wenatchee both win their division finals, the Bruins would get a best-of-3 home series in the national semis. If all the high seeds win their division finals series, Austin would go to Amarillo for a best-of-3 national semifinal series.