Austin eliminates Tauros with 1-0 win

The Minot Minotauros will have to wait at least until next season to win their first home playoff game in program history.

Austin (Minn.) goaltender Nick Lehr and the rest of the Bruins came away with two victories over the weekend at Maysa Arena, including a 1-0 win Saturday in game four of the North American Hockey League Central Division semifinals. Austin advances to play Bismarck in the division finals.

Lehr finished with 35 saves to earn the shutout, stymying Minot’s offense despite a change in the Tauros’ starting lineup by coach Marty Murray. Forwards Jake O’Borsky, Denis Dalidovich and Steven Sherman replaced Jadin Martin, Mason Morelli and Tim Donohue on the first line, but to no avail.

“(Lehr) did a great job,” Austin coach Chris Tok said. “We’ve been rotating goaltenders every other game, but we felt he should – with the big win last night – get another try and he definitely responded with the second win.”

Austin forward John Simonson scored his second goal in as many nights to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 14:33 of the first period. Linemate Brandon Wahlin fed a pass that deflected off Simonson before coming to rest near his skate in the slot. The 5-foot-10 forward slapped the puck past Tauros goaltender Tyler Parks glove-side to give Austin the lead.

“To me, the first half of the game we weren’t there,” Murray said. “We weren’t desperate enough in my mind for a team on the ropes.”

As was the case in Friday’s game, the Tauros were unable to generate any offense on the power play. During a brief 5-on-3 power play late in the first period, Morelli rang a shot off the crossbar, but that was the Tauros’ best opportunity of the night with the man advantage.

“I thought it was going to go elbow in, but I guess not,” Morelli said. “Not a lot of breaks were going our way.”

Minot finished 0-for-6 on the power play.

“The power play was a big letdown this series,” Murray said. “Those are game-changers. We had our chances. When you reflect back on the series, that’s what you think of.”

Parks did all he could to keep Saturday’s game from being his last in a Tauros uniform. The St. Lawrence University-bound goaltender finished with 31 saves, getting the aid of the crossbar and goalposts on more than one occasion.

The Tauros pulled Parks in the final minute for an extra skater, but couldn’t score the equalizer to force overtime for a second consecutive night.