by John Peterson
In shocking fashion, the #4 Minot Minotauros stole home-ice advantage away from the #1 Austin Bruins in a high-octane 8-6 scoring frenzy Friday night in Game 1 of the Central Division semifinals at Riverside Arena in Austin. The Minotauros, who ended the regular season with the third-fewest goals in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), handed the Bruins just their fifth home loss of the season.
The scoring came early and often in the opening period, as Guillaume Leclerc (Franois, France) gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 2:41 of the frame on a rebound from Minot starting goalie Brandon Wildung (Minneota, MN). The Minotauros answered less than a minute later, when Jake McCann (Shoreview, MN) tipped in a centering pass from Troy Degler (Ft. Myers, FL). Trey Dodd (St. Louis, MO) put the Bruins back in front on a short-handed wraparound, followed closely by a goal from Niko Hildenbrand (Vacaville, CA) from the right circle to make it 3-1 Bruins. After Hildenbrand’s goal, Minot pulled Wildung for backup goaltender Merrick Madsen (Acton, CA) with just over ten minutes to play in the period. Michael Louria (Wexford, PA) tallied the next two Minot goals to tie the game at 3-3, before Jadin Martin (Minot, ND) snuck the fourth Minotauros goal past Bruins goalie Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN) late in the first period.
The scoring continued right away in the second period, when Jake Arroyo (Bolingbrook, IL) tield the game 38 seconds into the frame on a rink-wide feed from Austin Nelson (Hastings, MN). Minot jumped back in front, however, on Scott Dornbrock’s (Harper Woods, MI) wrist shot from the right circle that caromed off of Lehr’s shoulder and in. Again, Austin found the equalizer when Eli May (Eagan, MN) jammed the puck into the net out of a goal-mouth scramble, but Minot had an answer with a power-play mark in the final 20 seconds of the period on a deflection from Tim Donohue (Prior Lake, MN). The Bruins outshot the Minotauros 25-18 through two periods, but trailed 6-5 at the second intermission.
Two minutes into the third period, Luke Dietsch (St. Paul, MN) ripped a shot from the top of the right circle that fooled Madsen, giving the Bruins their second short-handed goal of the night to tie the game at 6-6. But again, the underdogs had an answer, as Jacob Howie (Grand Blanc, MI) popped in the third Minotauros power-play goal to regain the lead for good 4:03 of the third. Austin had plenty of chances to tie the game one more time, but were snake-bit in the final 15 minutes. Donohue picked up an empty-netter to seal the Game One upset.
The Bruins and Minotauros will play Game 2 of the opening round series Saturday at Riverside Arena at 7:05pm. It will also be a special night in Austin for another reason, as the Bruins will hold a fundraiser for former Aberdeen Wings player Zach Kraft, who is battling brain cancer. There will be silent auctions for autographed jerseys and sticks, and the team will be auctioning off lunch dates with the Bruins players for a great cause. Tickets are available at the Bruins ticket office, HyVee, Games People Play and Walgreens in Austin. The broadcast of Game 2 will be on fasthockey.com and 1480AM KAUS.