The Aberdeen Wings will start a new chapter in their two-year history tonight.
The fourth-seeded Wings (29-31) will enter in their first North American Hockey League Central Division playoff series against top-seeded rival Bismarck (45-15) tonight. Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-five series will be tonight and Saturday at the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck. Game three will be at the Odde Ice Center on April 13. If needed, games four and five will be at Aberdeen (April 14) and Bismarck (April 16).
All games will start at 7:15 p.m. and will be aired on fasthockey.com.
Here some things to know about the teams and the series:
· Bismarck is 23-5 at home this season. The Wings handed the Bobcats one of those five home losses.
· Bismarck won 10 of its 12 games against Aberdeen this season. However, each team has won two games in the last four meetings.
· After the season-opening four-game NAHL Showcase, Bismarck won 33 of its next 38 games. Over the last couple of months, Bismarck is 10-7-1 and Aberdeen 8-11.
· Bismarck set team records for wins (45) and points (92) this season. The league record for wins is 47.
· Aberdeen also set team records for wins (29) and points (65) this season.
· Aberdeen team captain Cory Ward, headed for Bemidji State this fall, was 11th in the league in scoring with 63 points (35 goals, 28 assists).
· Bismarck had three players in the top 25 for scoring: Castan Sommer (tied for 13th, 59 points); Dan Zawacki (tied for 18th, 56); and Tyler Richter (tied for 22nd, 54).
· Bismarck goalie Tommy Burke led the league in wins with 31.
· Bismarck defeated visiting Aberdeen 4-2 in the regular-season finale. Bobcat forward Nick Miglio told the Bismarck Tribune: I think this win is huge. It sends a big message that they're not going to beat us in our own building. They're going to have to bleed to do it.
· Bismarck carved out a 14-game home winning streak this season.
· Bismarck, the 2010 league champions, won its third division title in four years.
· Aberdeen finished 10th in the regular season in home attendance, averaging 1,280 fans per night at the 1,500-seat Odde Ice Arena. Only 13 teams averaged 1,000 or more fans a night.
The Wings will be losing assistant coach Garrett Roth at the end of this season.
The Chicago native will be leaving to pursue a head coaching job. Roth did a great job in helping head coach Pete Sauer in getting the second-year Wings up and running.
The Wings have hired Garrett Strot of Brooklyn Park, Minn., to replace Roth. Stot is a veteran hockey coach, having coached at Osseo High School in Minnesota and in the NAHL with the North Iowa Outlaws and Coulee Region Chill.