Photo credit: Austin Daily Herald
With the exception of the winter holidays, the Bruins schedule didn’t give them a single “bye week” all season long in 2016-17. As they grind their way through October headed toward the 1/4 mark, they do find themselves in somewhat of a light stretch, with two single-game weekends in their next four, and five straight on home ice after Saturday. This weekend’s battle is with the Midwest Division’s Coulee Region Chill – a team that gave them some memorable battles a season ago.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR –
Home Ice Disadvantage: In stark contrast to the home-domination of the series between the Bruins and Bismarck Bobcats, the Austin-Coulee head-to-head lead year was all about the road team. The away side won the first seven (of a total eight meetings), with the final game requiring OT before the Chill broke the trend. The most exciting game of the series was Paint the Rink Pink Night on February 6th, when the Bruins rallied from two goals down to tie it but lost 4-3 on a late Chill goal.
No More Matiss: Coulee made an improbable second half run to qualify for the postseason last spring, and much of that was attributed to star netminder Matiss Kivlenieks. The Latvian-born backstop won 16 games while posting a 2.41 GAA and a .925 save percentage. His stellar season earned him a DI commitment to Minnesota State-Mankato. Currently, Kivlenieks is with Sioux City of the USHL, leaving the Chill with a massive hole to fill in their net.
Chill Discipline: One of the main credits for Coulee’s 6-3-1 record to start the season has to go to their team discipline. With 89 penalty minutes in ten games, the Chill are far and away the least penalized team in the NAHL. In fact, no other team has fewer than 105 (Brookings). First year head coach Ryan Egan has his team staying out of the penalty box and into the win column, despite a -3 goal differential (38 goals for, 41 goals against).
Shaking off the Saturdays: The Bruins have had a rough time on Saturdays this season, going 0-3-1 on weekend close out days. On the other hand, they’re 3-1-0 on Fridays. Without a Friday game this week, the Bruins hope to take their Friday mentality into La Crosse. The only Saturday without a game between now and the end of the regular season is Christmas Eve.
Determined DuFault: Kasson’s own Tanner Dufault brought a physical presence to his Bruins debut last Saturday against Bismarck and is hoping to stick with the B’s in his final season of Juniors. The former Dodge County High standout was in camp with the Bruins last summer but played 51 games with the Kenai River Brown Bears in 2015-16 plus five this season. Now back home with a second chance to be a Bruin, DuFault is certainly a player to watch.
THE MATCHUP –
Central Division Standings:
Midwest Division Standings:
2016-17 Bruins vs. Coulee Region Head to Head
10/22/16 @ Coulee Region – 7:00 PM
11/12/16 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
12/8/16 @ Coulee Region – 7:00 PM
01/14/16 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
02/10/17 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
02/11/17 @ Coulee Region – 7:00 PM
03/24/17 @ Coulee Region – 7:00 PM
03/25/17 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
2016-17 Austin vs. Coulee Region Head to Head (Coulee Region won 5-3-0)
11/06/15 Coulee 6 at Austin 2
11/07/15 Austin 3 at Coulee Region 1
11/25/15 Austin 4 at Coulee Region 1
12/19/15 Austin 4 at Coulee Region 2
12/31/15 Coulee Region 5 at Austin 2
01/22/16 Coulee Region 4 at Austin 1
02/06/16 Coulee Region 4 at Austin 3
02/13/16 Austin 2 at Coulee Region 3/OT
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAMES –
The puck drops at 7:00 on Saturday Night from Green Island Ice Arena in La Crosse. The game will be broadcast with live streaming video and audio on HockeyTV.com, with the “AWAY” feed carrying the Bruins broadcast. Fans are encouraged to visit Hoot & Ole’s (Smitty’s) Tavern – the official home of Bruins away games – at 105 11th St. SE to watch the game on the big screen. FIND HOOT & OLE’S.
An audio only broadcast will also be available on AM 1480 KAUS in Austin as well as streaming online at myaustinminnesota.com. Coverage begins at 6:50 PM. Intermission updates for all games can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@theaustinbruins).