FRISCO, TX - The Bismarck Bobcats stared down another second intermission deficit at the 2012 Robertson Cup Tournament Friday, but this time dug deep to rally for a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Bandits on Day Two at Dr. Pepper Arena.
With the win, the Bobcats improve to 1-1 in pool play to take control of Pool B, pending the outcomes of Friday's games involving the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Texas Tornado.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the third, the Bobcats were able to tie the game with 7:28 gone in the final frame when Shane Omdahl found himself alone in front of the St. Louis net as a Patrick Moore entry pass deflected straight to him. Omdahl flicked the loose puck over Bandit goaltender Spencer Viele for a 2-2 game.
"We thought we were kind of due for a lucky bounce, but really the bounces came when we started working hard," explained Omdahl, who now has six goals in the 2012 postseason. "I was surprised at how much space I ended up having; I half-expected someone to come up and hit me hard."
The Bobcats then used patience to take the lead. Frank DeAugustine rushed up the ice on a 2-on-1 with Dan Zawacki but was forced to delay as Zawacki was walled off by the Bandit defense; DeAugustine waited for Adam Knochenmus to join the play and found him with a pass in the low slot that Knochenmus one-timed home to give the Cats their first lead of the tournament at 3-2 with 9:45 to go in regulation.
St. Louis threw the kitchen sink at Bobcat netminder Tommy Burke and the Cats' defense over the next nine-plus minutes, including a breakaway chance for Drew Slaton that Burke snapped away with a glove save to preserve the lead.
Burke's defense stepped up in the final minute and a half after Bandits head coach Jeff Brown pulled Viele for the extra attacker as Burke only needed one save despite fierce pressure from St. Louis thanks to a superb effort of shot and pass-blocking by the Bobcats.
"It was probably easier than it looked at the end of the game because our guys all sold out to block it," credited Burke, who won in his first start since Game Two of the Central Division Semifinals, "and that's what we had to do. If you want to win in May, you have to pay the price and our guys did that all day."
One last clear from DeAugustine with three seconds left negated the balance of the game clock, giving the Bobcats a badly 3-2 needed victory on Day Two.
Burke made 22 saves to secure his second win of the postseason.
It was the Bandits, though, who drew first blood Friday as regular-season NAHL scoring leader Joe Kalisz spilled free from a back-boards pileup behind Burke's net and put on a sequence of moves before wristing one over Burke's glove to put the Bandits ahead 1-0 with 6:06 gone in the first.
Bobcat blueliner Donald Olivieri, who-like Burke-was playing in his first game since Game Two against Aberdeen, evened the score at 1-1 for the Bobcats with 4:05 left in the second period when he fired a bad-angle shot that bounced off Viele's skates and in.
Kalisz, however, had the answer for the Bandits as he popped in a Slaton rebound 1:59 after Olivieri's equalizer to push the Bandits back ahead at 2-1 heading into the second intermission.
Viele matched Burke's 22 saves but could not avoid his second loss of the playoffs.
The second-seeded Bobcats will wrap up pool play Saturday when they take on the #1 seed Amarillo Bulls at 12:30 PM at Dr. Pepper Arena. A win against the President's Cup-winning Bulls would guarantee the Bobcats a spot in Monday's national semifinals.
Saturday's pool play finale, along with all Bobcats games at the Robertson Cup, will be broadcast locally on the radio home of Bobcat Hockey, Super Talk 1270, KLXX-AM, and worldwide on the official internet television partner of the NAHL, FASTHockey, at http://nahl.fasthockey.com. Pregame coverage gets under way at 12:00 Friday. Fans can watch Friday's game-and all away contests-live at Reza's Pitch at Third and Front in Bismarck, the official away game home of Bobcat Hockey.