CLOQUET, Minn. – The first game of the 2021 calendar year for the Bruins yielded a standings point, but Austin dropped their lone game on the weekend, 4-3 to the Wilderness in the shootout.
The opening 15 minutes were something the Bruins would like to forget. The black-and-gold fell into a 3-0 hole in the first, and it all got started with a shorthanded goal. With Minnesota Wilderness defenseman sitting in the box for interference, the Bruins embarked on their first Chad Thomas Thrivent Financial Powerplay of the night. Despite having the man advantage, a neutral zone turnover led to a 2-on-1 chance for the Wilderness, and forward Gavin Rasmussen, who made sure to make the Bruins pay. Rasmussen’s goal was his first of the season and was the opening tally of the game. A little over five minutes later, Mitchell Allard made it 2-0 in favor of the Wilderness with his third goal of the season. Near the thirteen-minute mark of the first, the Wilderness got a fortunate bounce as the puck ricocheted off a skate in front past Tyler Shea for the 3-0 lead. The goal signaled the end of the night for Shea who was replaced by Hudson Hodges. The Bruins seemed to respond to the swap in goaltenders and answered back in the final minutes of the period. Racing to the front of the net, Walter Zacher provided enough of a screen to Minnesota goalie Kaleb Johnson as Alex Trombley fired a shot through the bodies and into the back of the net. The two teams went to the locker room after one period of action with the Bruins trailing, 3-1.
In the second, however, it was all Austin. While on the power play, Bruins forward Walter Zacher scored his fourth goal of the season in his return from injury to pull the Bruins within one, 3-2. Moments later, it looked like Austin tied things up when Reggie Millette slammed home a top-shelf shot, but the referees determined that Minnesota goalie Johnson was interfered with and negated the goal. That didn’t deter the Bruins, however, who ultimately tied the game later in the second. Carting the puck through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, Garrett Dahm head-faked around one defender and left a perfect drop pass for Barrett Brooks. The Western Michigan commit Brooks swerved around another man and rocketed a wrist-shot past Johnson to level the score at 3-3 in the second.
In the third period, both goaltenders earned their keep and managed to keep the opponents off the scoreboard. Particularly Hudson Hodges, who late in the third stoned Gunnar Thoreson on a shorthanded 2-on-1 attempt to keep things even at three. In overtime, the Bruins managed to outshoot the Wilderness but for the second time this season between the two clubs, a shootout was necessary to decide a winner. Gavin Rasmussen was the lone goal scorer for the Wilderness whose first-round goal was enough to be the difference-maker and earn the Wilderness a 4-3 win.
With the loss, the Bruins fell to 4-5-2-1 on the season while the Wilderness improved to 2-3-0-1 with the win. Tyler Shea was the losing goaltender of record while Kaleb Johnson earned the victory. As for special teams, the Bruins went 1-for-5 on the powerplay while staying perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty-kill.
Up next for the Bruins, they take on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for a road game in Marshall, Minnesota. It’s the first game of a three-in-three for the Bruins, starting on Thursday in Marshall, followed by a home game against the Chippewa Steel on Friday, January 22, and back to Cloquet, MN, on Saturday, January 23 for a rematch against the Wilderness. Extremely limited tickets are available for the Bruins home game on Friday and fans can order tickets where available by visiting www.austinbruins.com/single-game-tickets.