by John Peterson
The Austin Bruins (40-19-1) didn’t need help. They did it on their own. For the second consecutive season, the Bruins are Central Division Champions, after sweeping the Bismarck Bobcats (31-24-5) with a 4-1 win Saturday at the VFW Center in Bismarck to wrap up the regular season.
After Bismarck’s Nate Repensky (Duluth, MN) was given an early penalty for checking from behind, the Bruins made him pay with a quick power-play goal. Scott Nelson (Apple Valley, MN) picked up a rebound in front of the net and threw a backhander past Bobcats goalie Scott Albertoni (Arvada, CO) to give Austin the early lead. On the Bruins’ second power-play, Josh Bretner’s (N. Potomac, MD) shot from the point was tipped out of mid-air by Guillaume Leclerc (Franois, France), who was positioned in between the circles, and into the net to put Austin up by two goals. Bismarck would score in the final minute of the opening frame, when Nathan Flynn (Hastings, MN) capitalized on a Bruins turnover and made a nice move to put the Bobcats on the board.
The second period inched along, as the physical first ten minutes saw little offense and several stoppages. The two teams combined for just two shots in the first half of the stanza. The Bruins added to their lead in the middle part of the period on a 5-on-3, when Jay Dickman (Shoreview, MN) fired a puck through the five-hole of Albertoni from low in the right circle to make it 3-1. In the final minute, Drew Anderson (Rochester, MN) scored the first Bruins even-strength goal on a snap shot from the left circle to make it 4-1.
The Bruins were defensively strong throughout the weekend and that continued in the third period. Austin goaltender Nick Lehr (Roseville, MN) also played a strong game for the second consecutive night, stopping 30 shots for his league-best 35th win, and the Bruins wrapped up the division title with a weekend sweep of their biggest rival.
The playoffs begin next weekend, as the Bruins will host the Minot Minotauros in the Central Division semifinals. Game 1 will be Friday night at 7:05pm at Riverside Arena in Austin, and Game 2 will be Saturday night. Tickets are available at the Bruins ticket office, as well as HyVee, Games People Play and Walgreens in Austin. The games can also be seen on fasthockey.com and heard on 1480AM KAUS.