MINOT, N.D. – After winning back-to-back games this past week, the Bruins couldn’t make it three-in-a-row as the Minot Minotauros proved to be too much to handle, knocking off Austin 6-3.
Coming into Friday’s game, the Bruins had yet to beat the Minotauros this season in four previous meetings and were hoping to change that. In addition, a Bruins win would be their third in a row while handing Minot their third consecutive loss. It wasn’t in the cards for the black-and-gold however. Less than 20 seconds into the game a fight broke out between Connor Mylymok and Blaine Warnert. The two heavy-weights exchanged blows and were escorted to the penalty box with matching five-minute majors and ten-minute misconducts. It was the ‘Tauros that got the scoring started in front of their home fans less than five minutes into the game. Defenseman Ryan Petersen had pinched down low for the Minotauros and feathered a pass into the slot. Despite being in the right place, Bruins defenseman Therien Theising saw the puck hop his stick and land on the tape of Cade Stibbe who gave Minot the 1-0 lead in the first. It was an eventful first period, but neither team would add anything to their score total and the teams went to the locker room after twenty minutes with the Minotauros up by a goal.
In the second, Minot continued to increase their lead scoring back-to-back goals. The first, a power-play goal from Kyle Kukkonen, would give them the 2-0 lead before taking a 3-0 advantage on Mason Campell’s second goal of the season. Late in the second period, however, the Bruins offense came alive. In a bang-bang passing play in the offensive zone, Peter Jacobs slid a pass from the slot over to Carson Riddle on the back door and the Holly, MI, native slammed home the Bruins’ first goal of the night with 1:58 remaining in the second.
Out of the gate in the third, the Bruins got an early power-play opportunity but couldn’t get on the board. Instead, it was Minot and Logan Anderson’s unassisted goal that helped improve the home team’s lead to 4-1. Now down by a trio, Jens Richards helped Austin even the score with a redirected shot off the stick of Cullen Rush that fooled Minot goaltender Keenan Rancier. With the score at 4-2, Minot continued to pressure. Following a Reggie Millette cross-checking penalty, Garrett Dahm committed a slash which put Austin down two men for an extended period. Having already allowed one power-play goal in the game, the Bruins couldn’t stop the Minotauros onslaught and allowed goals in both 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 situations. Minot’s tallies came from captain Jack Westlund and Kyle Kukkonen who registered his second of the night. Despite being down 6-2 at this point, the Bruins wouldn’t go without a fight. In the final minute of the game, Millette sniped the top corner over the shoulder of Rancier to bring the Bruins to within three, but it proved to be too little, too late, as the ‘Tauros took the 6-3 win.
Tyler Shea started for Austin and remained in the game for the duration stopping 32 of 38 shots in the loss while Rancier was good on 20 of 22 from the Bruins. Special teams proved to be the downfall for Austin who went 0-for-4 on the Chad Thomas Thrivent Financial Power-Play while allowing three goals on four Fairway Mortgage Kris Heichel Team penalty kills.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday for the rematch with puck drop scheduled for 8:05. It will be the final meeting between the two clubs in Minot this season, with the season-series finale coming at Riverside Arena on April 30 and May 1. For tickets to that Bruins series or any of Austin’s upcoming home games, fans can purchase their tickets online at www.austinbruins.com/single-game-tickets.