Photo credit: Don Boesen, Boesen Photography
Thirteen wins, thirteen losses, and four overtime losses (two in a shootout). That was the story of the Austin Bruins first half. It was a half-season filled with inconsistency, as it saw a winning streak no greater than two games nor a losing streak longer than three, until they dropped the last four to close it out. Needless to say, the Christmas break came at the perfect time for a Bruins squad that has played a lot of hockey over the last two months and now looks for a second half run to solidify a playoff spot.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR –
Wilderness Watch: Newcomers to the Central Division, the Bruins haven’t seen their 2015 Robertson Cup nemesis yet this season, and will again play them only four time altogether. The Wilderness made a somewhat surprising coaching change in the offseason, hiring Tim Madsen as their new bench boss. Through their first 30 games, the Wilderness lead all Central Division teams in goals (103), and sit four point ahead of the Bruins for third, behind Minot and Brookings. The Bruins went 0-4-0 against the Wilderness last year and haven’t beaten them since March 14th, 2015.
Shorthanded Success: Tanner DuFault’s shorthanded breakaway goal on December 17th in Bismarck was the eighth of the season for the Bruins, continuing to lead the NAHL. Only a quick whistle in the game the night before prevented Dante Zapata from adding yet another one to the docket. While the Bruins allowed three power play goals over their winless weekend in Bismarck, the PK had gone 22-for-23 in the prior seven games to go along with it.
O’Connor’s Return: Paul O’Connor made his return to the Bruins lineup against Bismarck and logged a lot of ice time in all situations. O’Connor joined both special teams units and immediately became part of the top defense pairing. While his presence didn’t result in wins, his veteran leadership and versatility on the Bruins blue line should shore up several areas.
Altmann & Mills: No, that’s not a Cloquet-based lawfirm, but rather two surnames who have pairs of brothers playing on the Wilderness roster. Zach Mills (’96) and older brother Dylan Mills (’99) hail from Cottage Grove while Nick (’97) and Ashton Altmann (‘98) from nearby Duluth also were reunited following a trade with Bismarck earlier this month, bringing Ashton to the Wilderness.
THE MATCHUPS –
Central Division Standings:
2016-17 Bruins vs. Wilderness Head to Head
12/30/16 @ MN Wilderness – 7:05 PM
12/31/16 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
01/20/17 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
01/21/17 @ MN Wilderness – 7:05 PM
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAMES –
|12/30/16||7:05||MN Wilderness||Northwoods CU Arena||Hoot & Ole’s||HockeyTV (AWAY)||AM 1480 KAUS
|12/31/16||7:05||MN Wilderness||Riverside Arena||NONE||HockeyTV (HOME)||NONE|
*all broadcasts begin 10 minutes prior to puck drop
Gates open at 6:00 on Saturday night at Riverside for a 7:05 New Year’s Eve Faceoff. Fans will be able to get their photos taken in a special New Year’s Eve Bear Den photo booth! Visit Hy-Vee, Games People Play, Jim’s Marketplace, or the Holiday Inn Austin to save $4 off the door price.