The Minotauros waited impatiently all offseason for a rematch with Austin (Minn.) after the Bruins ended Minot’s season in the first round of the North American Hockey League playoffs last year.
Thoughts of revenge weren’t enough for the Tauros as the Bruins scored three unanswered goals in the second period and hung on for a 3-2 victory in Minot’s home opener Friday at Maysa Arena.
After a scoreless first period, both offenses came alive late in the second. The Tauros (1-3-1) took a brief lead at 14 minutes, 29 seconds of the second frame when forward Scott Smoot scored his first goal of the season. Forward Tyler Shipstad’s slap shot from the blue line was way off the mark, but the puck hit a Bruins defenseman in front and came out to Smoot who beat goaltender Nicholas Lehr. Shipstad was originally awarded the goal.
“I just hit the guy off the puck and (Jake) McCann was banging down low too and the puck just squirted out to Scott Smoot and he finished it,” Shipstad said.
Minot’s lead was short lived as the Bruins scored the equalizer 17 seconds later on a goal by Dominik Florian from the left faceoff circle. Austin (5-0) seemed poised to turn the game into a blowout after adding two more in a span of 55 seconds to take a 3-1 lead late in the second period.
“They’re a team that pushed and we didn’t push back hard enough,” Tauros coach Marty Murray said. “We got on our heels a little bit. We made a couple mental errors. We were careless a bit in the neutral zone with the puck. Good teams will make you pay and we have to learn from our mistakes.”
Jay Dickman, Austin’s leading scorer, tallied the Bruins’ second goal and assisted on the third. Guillaume Leclerc scored Austin’s third goal. In five games, Dickman leads the league with seven goals and also has three assists.
The Tauros finally got production from their power-play unit, keeping Minot in the game in the process. After a checking-from-behind penalty on Florian, Minot forward Tim Donohue recorded his team-leading third goal with 1:42 left in the second period. Donohue beat Lehr glove side with a wrist shot through traffic from the slot.
Minot came a split second short of tying the contest heading into the second period intermission. After initially ruling the play a goal, officials ruled the puck crossed the goal line after the horn sounded, keeping the Bruins in front.
Aside from Donohue’s power-play goal, the Tauros special teams had plenty of opportunities to generate offense. Minot finished 1 for 7 on the power play and couldn’t capitalize on two 5-on-3 advantages. The first occurred early in the second with the game still scoreless. Even with five penalties, the Bruins outshot Minot 10-9 in the frame.
“We had a lot of chances we just didn’t bear down on,” Shipstad said, “especially on those 5-on-3s. That’s the difference in the game right there. We just had a little lapse in the second period. Tomorrow we have to come out and bear down on special teams.”
The second two-man advantage came in the opening minutes of the third period, but the Tauros failed to challenge Lehr with any quality scoring chances.
“You can only get so many chances to get yourself in the game and you have to take some accountability yourself,” Murray said. “We didn’t get the job done. It’s very tough being our home opener. We have to regroup and get after it (tonight).”
The teams meet again tonight at 7:35 at Maysa Arena.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State University men’s club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.