by John Peterson
A late third period goal completed a second consecutive comeback for the Austin Bruins (26-11-1) from a 2-0 deficit, as the Bruins swept the Aberdeen Wings (22-14-2) with a 3-2 victory Saturday night at Riverside Arena in Austin.
Saturday’s script looked almost identical to Friday’s in the first period, as the Bruins were slow out of the gate, and the Wings took control. Dillon Kelley (Petoskey, MI), who made his first start for Austin since coming to the Bruins in a trade, stopped the first 11 shots he faced. However, a slap shot through traffic from Jake Horton (Plymouth, MN) at the point snuck by Kelley over his left shoulder to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. Then after the Bruins failed to convert on a 2-on-1 in the final minute, Aberdeen scored its second goal on the ensuing rush, when Jordan Heller (Bemidji, MN) deflected a TJ Roo (Coon Rapids, MN) shot into the net. Aberdeen outshot Austin 14-10 in the opening period.
The Bruins played their best period of the season in the second, putting 25 shots on the Aberdeen goal, thanks to a relentless forecheck from all four lines. Austin notched its first goal at 6:25 of the frame after a long possession in the attacking zone. Eli May (Eagan, MN) picked up his first career goal on a wrist shot from high in the slot that snuck under the left arm of Wings’ goalie Henry Dill (Columbus, OH). The Bruins tied the game just over four minutes later when, again, Aberdeen struggled to clear their zone. Lucas Kohls (Forest Lake, MN) sniped a shot over the shoulder of Dill from the point for his fifth goal against the Wings this season. The game was tied heading into the third, and Austin led Aberdeen 36-19 in shots through two periods.
In a fairly-even third period. neither team could convert on a pair of power-plays, as it looked like the game was scripted for overtime. However, Guillaume Leclerc (Franois, France) and Casey Jerry (Hudson, WI) orchestrated a perfect give-and-go in the final three minutes, and Leclerc lifted the game-winner over Dill to send the Bruins on to a weekend sweep. Kelley stopped 28 shots for his first Bruins win, and Dill turned away 45 of 48 shots for Aberdeen in the loss. With the win, the Bruins clinched first place in the Central Division before the NAHL Prospects Tournament freeze date Monday, which means the team will send five players to the tournament February 17-18 in Troy, MI, and Head Coach Chris Tok will coach the Central team.
Next weekend, the Bruins will have their final home-and-home series with the Brookings Blizzard. Friday night’s game will start at 7:15pm out at the Larson Ice Center in Brookings, and will be viewable on fasthockey.com. Saturday’s contest will be at Riverside Arena in Austin at 7:05pm, and the broadcast will air on 1480AM KAUS and fasthockey.com.