by John Peterson
Often a few big saves from a goalie can bring confidence and momentum to the rest of the team. Friday night at Riverside Arena in Austin, that was the script as the Austin Bruins (33-11-11) bounced back from a rough first period to a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wilderness (34-12-6).
Rookie goalie Evan Smith (Parker, CO) stole the show in the first period for the Bruins, who were heavily out-chanced by the Wilderness attack. Minnesota outshot Austin 10-4 in the opening frame, but the teams skated to the first intermission scoreless.
The game opened up in the second period, with 21 combined shots (14 by the Bruins). Austin picked up the game’s first goal, when leading scorer Trevor Boyd (Muskegon, MI) knocked a rebound through the five-hole of Wilderness goalie Brock Kautz (Rochester, MN) on the second try.
Minnesota answered 2:11 later on the power play when Wayland Williams (Canton, MI) blasted a one-timer from the top of the right circle over the glove of Smith. Late in the period, Austin regained the lead on a five-minute man advantage that stemmed from a Brett Heikkila (Marquette, MI) check from behind on Tony Uglem (Moorhead, MN).
On the long power play, Ian Scheid (Coon Rapids, MN) sent a wrist shot to the net from the point and Zach Kennedy (Eagle River, WI) redirected it in past Kautz to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. Uglem returned in the final minutes of the period and capitalized with a tap-in goal at 19:05 of the frame to give Austin the two goal advantage heading into the third.
Four penalties in the final period (seven during the game) forced the Bruins number-one ranked penalty kill to get some extra work. On one of the Wilderness power plays, Alex Pettersson (Ockero, Sweden) delivered a big hit in the offensive zone to free up the puck and JC Maclean (Basking Ridge, NJ), flicked a quick shot over the glove of Kautz for some insurance as Austin defeated Minnesota for the third straight time.
Smith arguably played his best game in a Bruins jersey. The 18-year-old stopped 19 of 20 shots, included ten in the early going to keep the game scoreless when the Wilderness could have pounced. The timing couldn’t have been better for the rookie, who was listed on the NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-Term Rankings for this summer’s NHL Draft.
The final regular season meeting between the Bruins and Wilderness is Saturday night at 7:05pm at Riverside Arena in Austin. The game can be seen on fasthockey.com and heard on 1480AM KAUS. The Bruins then wrap up the regular season with consecutive home-and-home weekend series against Brookings.