Thunder swept away

Published 3:10 pm Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Albert Lea Thunder’s season and possibly the franchise came to an end Friday at City Arena in a 6-1 loss to Bismarck.

The future remains uncertain for the franchise as does the prospect of junior hockey remaining in Albert Lea following the Bobcats’ 3-0 sweep of the Thunder in the first round of the North American Hockey League Central Division playoffs.

“You don’t know how to think because we don’t know if we’re in existence next year,” said Albert Lea head coach Chuck Linkenheld. “Don’t know if we should be sad, happy.”

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Instead Linkenheld and others now have to wait and see if any ownership group will step in and purchase the team and begin a new franchise in Albert Lea for next season.

“It’s annoying,” Linkenheld said of the situation. “Again, it goes back to the old owner. He continues to wreak havoc on this whole setup. They (the NAHL) got potential buyers and they’re interviewing them and we don’t know what that means.”

The debt former owner Barry Soskin ran up in Albert Lea presents the largest obstacle to overcome for a possible owner and it seems the best scenario for a new owner would be to start a new franchise in Albert Lea.

For five Thunder players the loss marked their final game of junior hockey because they will age out.

“We made a long run,” said Albert Lea forward Niko Kapetanovic, who spent the past two seasons with the Thunder. “We’ll never forget this team.”

Albert Lea’s run ran out after the Thunder gave up four power-play goals and couldn’t match Bismarck’s skill.

“Like I said before the series started they’re too good for us to make mistakes and play shorthanded,” Linkenheld said. “It’s hard enough to play them five-on-five.”

Ryan Jacobson scored twice for the Bobcats and Dominic Panetta added a goal and two assists. Panetta finished the series with nine points.

Bismarck took a 2-0 lead after the first period and made it 4-0 less than two minutes into the second period.

Matt Shost scored 15 seconds into the period with a power-play goal and Jason Fabian scored at 1:51 on another power-play. The Bobcats finished 4-for-8 on the power-play.

The Thunder, meanwhile, generated chances but failed to convert until the third period when Anthony Iaquinto scored a goal during a scramble in front of the Bismarck goal.

“They have pure finishers on their team and I think that’s makes a difference,” Linkenheld said. “When they get those opportunities they’re in. When we get those opportunities they’re not in.”

Albert Lea had several chances but shots sailed over the net or the Bobcats crowded the front of the net and denied any rebounds.

Bismarck 6, Albert Lea 1

Bismarck 2 2 2 — 6

Albert Lea 0 0 1 — 1

First Period—1, Bismarck, Dominic Panetta 2 (Sean McKenzie, Jason Fabian), 16:34 (pp.). 2, Bismarck, Ryan Jacobson 3 (Panetta, Tim Serratore), 19:26. Penalties—Tom McCarthy, Bis (hooking), 5:30; Colton Warner, Alb (delay of game), 7:25; Dan Weissenhofer, Bis (delay of game), 7:25; Zack Smoot, Alb (hooking), 14:58; Anthony Iaquinto, Alb (interference), 19:59.

Second Period—3, Bismarck, Matt Shost 1 (Jason Fabian), 0:15 (pp.). 4, Bismarck, Fabian 2 (Sam Rendle, Panetta), 1:51 (pp.). Penalties—Brandon Lubin, Alb (slashing), 1:08; Bryce Schmitt, Bis (tripping), 1:54; Derek Docken, Alb (tripping), 3:18; Colton Warner, Alb (checking from behind), 11:26.

Third Period—5, Bismarck, Rendle 1 (Fabian, Ben Danford), 1:37. 6, Bismarck, Jacobson 4 (Serratore, Panetta), 13:12 (pp.). 7, Albert Lea, Iaquinto 2 (Smoot), 14:56. Penalties—Iaquinto, Alb (roughing), 7:10; Iaquinto, Alb (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:10; Joe Kozlak, Alb (roughing), 11:52.

Shots on Goal—Bismarck 12-19-11—42. Albert Lea 12-14-18—44.

Power-play opportunities—Bismarck 4 of 8; Albert Lea 0 of 3.

Goalies—Bismarck, Ryan Faragher 1-0-0 (44 shots-43 saves). Albert Lea, Joe Rogers 0-3-0 (42-36).

A—555. T—2:05.

Referee—Christopher Pitoscia. Linesmen—Matthew Tyree, Sam Shikowsky.