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Yellowstone Quake take control

Tyler Roberts leans in for a face-off during Friday hockey action in Bozeman. The Quake are positioned well for the playoffs after splitting weekend games with the Ice Dogs. Tyler Roberts leans in for a face-off during Friday hockey action in Bozeman. The Quake are positioned well for the playoffs after splitting weekend games with the Ice Dogs. Tribune photo by Kara Bacon

Saturday rally against Bozeman puts team in driver’s seat

Tyler Roberts and Brad Tunesi scored during a 47-second span of the final period to rally the Yellowstone Quake to a 3-2 hockey victory over Bozeman at Riley Arena on Saturday. In doing so, they put the Quake firmly in control of their own destiny with five games to play.

“I’ll sleep a lot better tonight,” said Quake head coach Craig Furstenau, who watched his team miss out on a golden chance Friday night when they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Bozeman. “This takes a lot of the pressure off.”

The Quake entered the weekend with a two-point lead over Bozeman in the NORPAC America West division standings. The two teams are jockeying for the fourth and final playoff slot.

While the split of weekend action still leaves the two teams just two points apart in the standings, the margin looks far different now.

“With the win tonight, we captured the overall season series against Bozeman,” Furstenau said. “If we finish tied with them in the standings, we get the playoff spot, so it’s really more like a four-point lead.”

With the Ice Dogs having just four games on their schedule, the Quake also have the advantage of an extra game remaining. Yellowstone has three games remaining against Billings, one game against Missoula and a game against Butte left. Three of Bozeman’s final four games come against the top two teams in the America West standings.

After a scoreless first period, Alex Johansons put the Quake on board with a goal four minutes into the second period. Bozeman knotted the score midway through the period and the teams skated into the final 20 minutes tied at 1-1.

The Ice Dogs capitalized in the final seconds of a power play to grab a one-goal lead with just over 13 minutes remaining in the contest, but Roberts returned the favor with a Quake power play goal at the 13:18 mark. Seconds later, Tunesi sent home a feed from Justin Dennis for the game winner.

Goalie Nic Wackerly turned away a couple Ice Dog shots on goal in the closing minutes to preserve the one-goal win.

The win came just 24 hours after another Quake rally came up short. Trailing 2-0 at Bozeman on Friday night, the Quake rallied in the final 2:03 with two goals to force overtime, only to watch as the Ice Dogs scored 18 seconds into the extra stanza to win.

Drew Parus began the Yellowstone rally with a power play goal. Michael Mackinnon scored the equalizer with 47 seconds to play after the Quake had pulled its goalie in favor of an extra attacker.

In other weekend action, the Quake overwhelmed Butte by an 11-0 final count. Branden Morganroth had four goals while Roberts added two more in the rout of the Roughriders.

The Quake, now 19-26 on the season, host Billings on Thursday, Missoula on Friday and travel to Butte on Saturday. Both home games will drop the puck at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re seven games under .500, but we’ve outscored our opponents by 27 goals this season,” Furstenau said. “We’re not that bad of a team. We’re right there.”

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