by John Peterson
For the second straight game in the opening round best-of-five series, the #1 Austin Bruins (42-20-1) squeaked out a 2-1 win over the #4 Minot Minotauros (25-35-3). Friday night, the Bruins fought their way to a win in a hostile environment at Maysa Arena in Minot.
Austin jumped out of the gate with a lot of energy in the first period, getting traffic to the Minot net throughout the first 20 minutes. The Bruins found the net at 12:01 of the period, when Casey Jerry (Hudson, WI) picked up a rebound that was kicked out the the right circle. Jerry snapped a shot by Minot goalie Merrick Madsen (Acton, CA) from a sharp angle. After Bruins goaltender Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN) made three enormous saves during a late Minot flurry, Austin made it 2-0 on a goal mouth scramble at the other end less than a minute later when Luke Dietsch (St. Paul, MN) jammed away at a loose puck in the crease. The Bruins outshot the Minotauros 18-12 in a fast-paced opening stanza.
The tempers boiled over in the second period from the drop of the puck, as the two teams racked up 56 combined penalty minutes. There were two fights and three separate 5-on-3 situations in the period, and Minot capitalized on the last one in the final minute. Jon Lizotte (Grand Forks, ND) blasted a one-timer past Lehr from the point to cut the Bruins lead in half at the second intermission.
Austin held the Minotauros to just five shots in the third, but most of them were quality looks. The Bruins also blocked several third period chances, as they hung on to their second straight 2-1 win to take a series lead heading into Game 4. Lehr stopped 27 shots in his best game of the playoffs, while Madsen made 36 saves in the loss.
Game 4 of the best-of-five series will be Saturday night at Maysa Arena in Minot at 7:35pm. If the Bruins win, they will move on to the division finals to face Bismarck, who swept Aberdeen in three games in the other first round series. If the Minotauros are victorious, the series shifts back to Austin for a fifth and final game Monday night at Riverside Arena. The broadcast of Game 4 can be seen on fasthockey.com or heard on 1480AM KAUS in Austin, with the pregame show starting at 7:25.