The importance of Saturday’s win against Janesville cannot be understated. Not only did it keep the Bruins in a playoff spot entering the month of February, but it elevated them into a tie for third with Brookings, as the Central Division managed to get even tighter – a seemingly impossible task for the most competitive division in the NAHL already. As the Bruins welcome the Aberdeen Wings into town, the only thing that separates their respective records is a single overtime loss – a one point margin.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR –
4 spots, 3 points: After Minot and the Wilderness, only three points separate Brookings, Austin, Aberdeen, and Bismarck. All four teams have 18 wins with Brookings and Aberdeen holding at least one game in hand on the rest of the pack. Of course, only two of the four will make the playoffs, but the Bruins and Wings could have an advantage, each playing four non-conference games the rest of the way (Bruins against Coulee, Wings against MN Magicians) while the other three teams play their entire remaining schedule within the Central.
Special Case Special Teams: At first look, the Wings hold the special teams advantage in this matchup, ranking 12th in both power play and penalty kill efficiency, while the Bruins are at the bottom of the league in both categories. However, a deeper look shows that the Bruins PK at home clips at 83% (7th overall) while Aberdeen’s PP on the road sits only at 14.9% (20th).
Slumps: There are three Bruins forwards looking to bust out of personal scoring droughts in a big way this weekend: John Wojciechowski, Evan Cholak, and Logan Haskins. Wojciechowski is stuck on one goal all season, and it came 31 games ago at the NAHL Showcase. Cholak’s stuck in a one-goal-in-twenty-two stretch, and Haskins hasn’t scored since the Bruins last hosted Aberdeen in early December (15 games).
Forbes Top 11: Although his 2.59 goals-against-average isn’t anything to write home about, Forbes Ploszaj currently ranks higher (11th) than any Central Division goaltender in that category. The departure of Kris Carlson and Hunter Shepard (Bismarck) has left the Central Division without a notable standout netminder this season, but Ploszaj has been a major reason that the Wings have been able to climb back into playoff contention.
THE MATCHUPS –
Central Division Standings:
2016-17 Austin vs. Aberdeen head to head (Series tied 2-2)
Click date for game story
10/08/16 Austin 2 at Aberdeen 5
12/02/16 Aberdeen 4 at Austin 6
12/03/16 Aberdeen 6 at Austin 2
01/07/17 Austin 4 at Aberdeen 2
02/03/17 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
02/04/17 @ Austin – 7:05 PM
03/03/17 @ Aberdeen – 7:15 PM
03/04/17 @ Aberdeen – 7:15 PM
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAMES –
|2/3/17||7:05||Aberdeen Wings||Riverside Arena||NONE||HockeyTV (HOME)||NONE|
|2/4/17||7:05||Aberdeen Wings||Riverside Arena||NONE||HockeyTV (HOME)||NONE|
Gates open at 6:00 on Friday and Saturday night at Riverside for a pair of 7:05 faceoffs. All participants of the Austin Packer Bantam Classic gain admission for just $5, with flyer coupon. General admission tickets can be purchased at Hy-Vee, Games People Play, Jim’s Marketplace, or the Holiday Inn Austin to save $4 off the door price.
The annual “Paint the Rink Pink” Game is Friday, February 10th against Coulee Region Chill at 7:05 PM. Tickets are on sale at the above vendors or at the Bruins ticket office on game night and the business office during the week (between the hours of 9 AM – 4 PM). PTRP T-Shirts are available for $15 at all home games or in the Bruins business office.