Aberdeen Wings head coach Scott Langer has talked this season about his team’s “buy-in” concerning how he and his staff expect the team to play.
Fans in the Odde Ice Center last weekend saw what that buy-in is like.
The Wings swept the Austin Bruins thanks to a 5-2 win Friday, Dec. 15 and a 4-2 win Saturday Dec. 15. Aberdeen has won five straight games and six out of its last seven to improve to 14-13-1-2.
Their 31 points are tied with fourth-place Austin in the North American Hockey League Central Division standings, but the Wings are in fifth because the Bruins have one more win. They also have two games in hand.
“Winning six out of our last seven is something to be proud of by this group,” Langer said. “Their buy-in is getting a lot better and they’re doing things right because of it, and they’re getting rewarded for it, so when we come back from (Christmas) break we’re gonna have to refocus and make sure that’s still the plan.”
The Wings got out of the gate early on Saturday, scoring at the 6:21 mark of the first period with Grant Winkler’s first goal of the season.
Austin tied it early in the second, however Isak Holmstrom reclaimed the lead for Aberdeen with his second goal in as many nights. Logan Gravnik’s power play goal proved to be the game winner, coming with 7:48 left in the period.
Gravnik agrees the team has begun to figure out how it needs to play to find success.
“We had a little rough patch early on in the season where we were working out the kinks, but I think we came together really well and things are starting to fall into place,” he said.
“When the puck got to my stick, it was just rip it and fire,” Gravnik said. “Our guys are doing a really good job setting up lanes to shoot, we just have to keep putting pucks on net and they’re gonna fall like they did (Saturday).”
Adam Dybal came up big in goal for the Wings, stopping 35 of 37 shots.
“That’s why we’re winning hockey games. We’re getting timely saves and we’re getting saves that we shouldn’t have to get, but we are, and that’s how you win hockey games,” Langer said.
Aberdeen starts slow, but regroups to open series with Friday win
Austin dominated the first period Friday, putting 21 shots on goal. Dybal turned away all but one, and the Wings eventually got going.
Homlstrom tied the game late in the first, scoring his ninth goal of the season at the 18:35 mark. Dybal finished the game with 38 saves.
“He gave us the goaltending we needed, for sure,” Langer said. “That was just a dismal start by us. Probably one of the worst starts we had this year. Emotionally, we didn’t seem in it, but his ability to keep us in it and (Homlstrom’s) big goal, that was huge for us.”
The Wings took that momentum out of the locker room, scoring three unanswered goals in the second period. Simon Pollock, Weston Turner and Nick Comfort found the back of the net to make it 4-1 Wings.
Austin had just six shots on goal in the second period.
“For sure, that was one of the best periods of the year,” Langer said. “Our guys responded big time, and that’s what you want to see. We could have easily come out and been dog crap, but we jumped on them right away. From the first face off, we were putting pressure on them, and it was just a really good outcome.”
The Wings return to action Friday, Dec. 29 and Saturday, Dec. 30 against St. Cloud. Both games begin at 7:15 p.m. at the Odde Ice Center.
Sports new and notes
- Esten Foss, Paxton Ewing, Rayden Zens, Ridley Waldo, Owen Ward, Elias Biegler, Noah Kramer and Ayden Gisi all recorded pins as the Aberdeen Central boys wrestling team picked up a 63-14 victory against Huron on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
- Zens went 4-0 to win the 127-pound weight class at the Valley City Holiday Tournament Saturday in North Dakota. The Golden Eagles finished fourth in the team race as Bismarck claimed the championship.
- Avery Bendewald, Madyson Gillen, Jasmine Maas, Rakyrah Wallace, Lin Paw Jone and Lilly Nelson all recorded pins as the Aberdeen Central girls wrestling team defeated Huron 54-18 Tuesday.
- The Central girls wrestling team took fourth at the Border Brawl Saturday in Ashley, N.D. Bendewald (107 pounds), Gillen (117 pounds) and Katrina Gibson (152 pounds) each finished second.
- Warner-Northwestern’s Alex Pudwill defeated Camden Murray of Redfield 3-1 to win the 190-pound title at the Mount Vernon-Plankinton-Corsica-Stickney Invitational on Saturday.
- Groton wrestler Christian Ehresmann downed Gavin Kloos of Deuel 7-4 to claim the 152-pound title at the Northeast Conference Wrestling Tournament Thursday, Dec. 14 in Milbank. Milbank won the team race. The Tigers were sixth.
- With a 4-0 record, Aberdeen Central remains at No. 5 in this week’s Class AA girls high school basketball poll. Aberdeen Roncalli, 3-0, is receiving votes in the girls Class A poll.
- The Aberdeen Central gymnastics team finished second in a triangular at Central High School Tuesday. Britton-Hecla won the event with a score of 132.950 team points. Central’s Addison Everson won the vault with a score of 8.600, while Regan Lust won the floor exercise with a score of 9.350. Sterling Mertens of Britton-Hecla claimed the all-around title.
- The Aberdeen Cougars boys hockey team got back into the win column in convincing fashion, cruising to a 9-0 win Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Odde Ice Center. The Cougars are now 5-2. Brady Huff scored two of his four goals in the first period. Huff leads the team with nine tallies through seven games. Lance Siefken notched his seventh goal of the year to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead early in the second period. Devon Fischbach added two goals and two assists. Colton Townsend stopped all 15 shots he faced. The Cougars next host Watertown on Friday, Jan. 5 at 8 p.m.
- The Aberdeen Cougars girls squad picked up back-to-back wins Saturday and Sunday, outscoring Oahe and Sioux Falls by a combined 12-2 margin. Aberdeen knocked off Oahe 7-1 Saturday at home. Rachel Siefken had a hat trick for Aberdeen, giving her six goals on the season. On Sunday, it was Olivia Sandvig’s turn as she tallied three goals, giving her seven on the season. Aberdeen goalie Chloe Vikander turned back 27 shots in the two games, including 20 against Sioux Falls. The Cougars return to action at 6 p.m. MT Saturday Jan. 6 and 1:15 p.m. MT Sunday Jan. 7 in Rapid City.
- The 13th-ranked Northern State wrestling team finished with 85.5 points to take ninth place last weekend at the Midwest Classic in Indianapolis, Ind. Wyatt Turnquist, ranked No. 1 at 149 pounds, picked up a 15-7 win over Jacob Ealy of Pitt-Johnstown to win the division championship. Devin Bahr, ranked No. 10 in 157 pounds, placed third. Northern will return to the mat Friday, Jan. 5 and Saturday, Jan. 6 at the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
- Top-ranked South Dakota State University will play for a second straight Football Championship Subdivision national title after thumping Albany 59-0 Friday in a semifinal game in Brookings. The Jackrabbits will play Montana in the championship Jan. 7 at 1 p.m. at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The game will be broadcast on ABC. Isaiah Davis carried the ball 15 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Mark Gronowski threw for 265 yards and three scores. The Jacks are now 14-0 on the season and have logged 28 straight wins. Montana snuck by North Dakota State 31-29 in double overtime Saturday thanks to a wild two-point conversion that was deflected and caught.