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WEEKEND PREVIEW: Bruins battle Bobcats in Barometer Series

Photo credit: Don Boesen, Boesen Photograhy

The last time the Bruins saw Bismarck, the Bobcats had a record below .500. They sat in 5th place, and were on the outside looking in on the Central Division playoff race. That was November 20th. Fast forwarding to March 11th, as the two teams get ready for their final head-to-head battles of the 2015-16 regular season, the Bobcats now sit atop the Central Division, with a 23-7-1 record since that date in late November. This weekend at Riverside will provide the Bruins with a good barometer of where they stand heading into the final four weekends of the season.

 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR –

Last Chance for First: Eleven points behind the Bobcats for first in the Central with ten games to go, it is unlikely that the Bruins will catch Bismarck, but to have any chance, they’ll need a sweep this weekend. The Bobcats have two games in hand (fewer games played) on the Bruins and three on the second place Minot Minotauros, who have the same amount of points as Bismarck.

Lots of Shots: Despite struggling to find wins in recent games, the Bruins’ problem hasn’t been a lack of shots on goal. They have averaged 37.8 shots on goal per game over the last six, with only two wins in that span, and three games with just a single goal output. Ironically, their 33 shots in Friday’s win at Brookings was their highest total since February 13th at Coulee Region.

Sharp Shepard: Hunter Shepard has been a horse for the Bobcats this season, leading the NAHL in wins (29), while posting the third best goals-against average (2.01), and playing more minutes (2390:24) than all but one goaltender – Amarillo’s Anton Martinsson. He’s 4-1-0 with a 2.73 GAA and a .893 SV% in five starts against the Bruins this year.

Large Margins: Of the six head-to-head battles in ’15-16 (detailed below), four have been decided by 3 or more goals. The Bobcats won opening night by a 6-3 final before shutting out the Bruins 3-0 the next night. Austin countered with a 7-3 win on home ice November 20th, answered by an 8-1 Bismarck win to split the weekend. The split at V.F.W. Sports Center on November 13th and 14th saw closer games, with 6-4 and 3-2 final scores.

 

THE MATCHUP –

Central Division Standings:

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTL

PTS

Bismarck

48

31

16

1

63

Minot

51

29

17

5

63

Austin

50

24

22

4

52

Aberdeen

50

19

22

9

47

MN Magicians

50

19

25

6

44

Brookings

50

19

25

6

44

 

2015-16 Austin vs. Bismarck head to head (Bismarck leads 4-2-0):
click date for game story

09/18/15 Austin 3 at Bismarck 6
09/19/15 Austin 0 at Bismarck 3
11/13/15 Austin 4 at Bismarck 6
11/14/15 Austin 3 at Bismarck 2
11/20/15 Bismarck 3 at Austin 7
11/21/15 Bismarck 8 at Austin 1
03/11/16 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
03/12/16 @ Austin – 7:05 PM

 

HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAMES –

The puck drops from Riverside Arena on Friday and Saturday Night at 7:05 PM CT. Tickets can be pre-purchased at HyVee, Jim’s Marketplace, Games People Play, and the Holiday Inn for $4 off the door price – $11 for adults and $8 for students and seniors (65+). The first 300 fans through the gate on Friday will receive a free can koozie, courtesy of First Farmers & Merchants Bank. The Bruins will also begin selling season ticket packages from 2016-17 at this weekend’s games.

Both games will be broadcast with live streaming video and audio on FASTHockey.com, and audio only on AM 1480 KAUS and myaustinminnesota.com. Broadcast time is 6:55 both nights. Intermission updates can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@theaustinbruins).