by John Peterson
The Austin Bruins (37-18-1) will start the playoffs with home ice advantage in the first round. That much is certain, after the Bruins completed a weekend sweep of the Minnesota Magicians (19-30-6) with a 6-3 win Saturday night at Riverside Arena. Now the Bruins will try to lock up the top seed in the Central Division with four games to play.
A player who had a big impact in Friday’s game for the Magicians, Matt Colford (Champlin, MN) helped put Minnesota on the board early in Saturday’s contest. Colford threw a pass to the front of the Bruins net from the corner and Air Force Academy commit Will Johnson (Santa Barbara, CA) tapped in the one-timer past Austin goalie Dillon Kelley (Petoskey, MI). Seconds after the Bruins killed off a penalty, Jay Dickman (Shoreview, MN) took a head-man pass from Josh Bretner (N. Potomac, MD) and muscled his way around the Magicians defense. While being hauled down from behind, Dickman lifted a shot over the sprawling Minnesota goaltender Bryan Nies (Grand Forks, ND) to tie the game 1-1.
The Bruins took their first lead when Drew Anderson (Rochester, MN) picked up his own rebound from the left circle and snapped a shot under the right arm of Nies just 30 seconds into the second period. The Magicians tied it at 2-2 while killing off a penalty, when Jack Murphy (Prior Lake, MN) beat Kelley in close on the backhand. Shortly thereafter, Colin Hernon (Bloomington, MN) fired a wrist shot off the cross bar and down into the net to move Minnesota back in front. However, late in the period, the Bruins knotted the game at 3-3 when Kody Reuter’s (Sioux City, IA) stretch pass found Easton Viitala (Marquette, MI), who pushed his way around the last Magicians defender before beating Nies.
Eli May (Eagan, MN), who dressed as a forward for just the second time this season, broke the tie after jamming a rebound into the net to give the Bruins a 4-3 lead in the third period. Just eight seconds later, Dickman scored his fourth of the weekend, capping off a tic-tac-toe play off the ensuing faceoff to make it 5-3. Luke Dietsch (St. Paul, MN) snuck a sharp angle shot past Nies after playing the puck off of a corner-boards bounce to put the game out of reach, as Austin cruised to the win. Kelley made 24 saves in earning his third win as a member of the Bruins, while Nies stopped 31 of 37 Bruins shots in the loss.
Austin finishes the regular season with four games against rival Bismarck before the playoffs begin. The Bruins host the Bobcats next weekend for the final two home games of the season, before traveling to Bismarck the following weekend. Games Friday and Saturday will start at 7:05pm at Riverside Arena. Tickets are being sold at HyVee, Games People Play and Walgreens in Austin, as well as the Bruins ticket office. Both games will also air on 1480AM KAUS and fasthockey.com.