by John Peterson
Two teams potentially bound for a first-round playoff matchup played a physical barn-burner Saturday night at Maysa Arena in Minot, with no love lost going forward. The Central Division-leading Austin Bruins (35-18-1) ultimately squeaked out a 2-1 win over the Minot Minotauros (21-30-3), who are currently in fourth, to earn a series split.
The Bruins started the game with a lot of energy in the opening period, and it paid off on the scoreboard. After a hard shot by Alex Pettersson (Ockero, Sweden) from the high slot whistled wide of the net, Jay Dickman (Shoreview, MN) played the carom off the back wall and tapped in the rebound to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Casey Jerry (Hudson, WI) made it 2-0 Austin, after an Eli May (Eagan, MN) shot ricocheted off of a body in front of the net and on to Jerry’s stick, who snuck the puck past Minot goaltender Brandon Wildung (Minneota, MN). The Bruins outshot the Minotauros 12-7 in the opening stanza and led 2-0 at the first intermission.
Minot outshot the Bruins in the second period 7-5, but neither team managed a goal. The physical play picked up for both teams throughout the period, but both teams were 0-2 on their respective power-plays by the second break.
After a short 4-on-4 situation, the Minotauros began the third period on the power-play, but could not solve Bruins goaltender Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN). Lehr stopped 17 shots in the third period, and 30 in the game, including several during a furious Minot flurry in the waning minutes. The Bruins killed off most of a 5-on-3 short-handed situation late in the game that stemmed from a five-minute major penalty for head contact. The Minotauros, however, scored late in the power-play when Jake Johnson (Madison, WI) knocked in a rebound to make for a thrilling finish. Lehr and his teammates fought off one final attack in the last 30 seconds to preserve the win and series split.
With three weekends to go in the regular season, the Bruins return home for their next four games. Next Friday and Saturday, the Minnesota Magicians make their first trip to Austin for a weekend series. Both games will start at 7:05pm and tickets are still available at the Bruins ticket office, Hy-Vee, Games People Play and Walgreens in Austin. For those unable to make it, both games will also be viewable online at fasthockey.com.