Tauros hand Austin first loss of season

The Minot Minotauros felt like they let one slip through their fingers Friday night in the team’s home opener.

On Saturday, the Tauros made the most of their opportunities, defeating the Austin (Minn.) Bruins 4-2 at Maysa Arena for a weekend split with the North American Hockey League Central Division leaders.

Defensemen led the charge, recording two goals and an assist while limiting the Bruins to 20 shots and a season-low two goals. It was Austin’s first loss of the season.

“I thought we competed harder from the get go,” Tauros coach Marty Murray said. “Our urgency was a lot better than it was last night. Austin’s a very good hockey team and it’s nice to see us be able to play with them.”

The Bruins (5-1) struck first at 7 minutes, 59 seconds of the first period with a goal by Luke Dietsch. Linemate Drew Anderson set up the play by finding Dietsch in the slot with a pass from the sideboards. Dietsch took advantage of open ice in the middle of the Tauros’ defensive zone and beat goaltender Merrick Madsen glove side with a wrist shot.

Much like Minot’s lead Friday, Austin’s one-goal advantage was short-lived as the Tauros (2-3-1) answered less than two minutes later to tie the game. Minot defenseman Jon Lizotte scored his first goal of the season off the draw from the left faceoff circle and snapped a shot by Austin goaltender Justin Quale. Forward Jake Johnson won the faceoff to the left of Quale and got the puck to Lizotte for the equalizer.

“We were able to respond tonight, which we’re obviously happy about,” Murray said. “It was a nice confidence builder for us. Austin was undefeated coming into tonight, so if we play hard and play our game, we can play with anybody in the league.”

Minot’s power play, which failed to score on two 5-on-3 advantages Friday, scored on its first attempt Saturday to give the Tauros a 2-1 lead late in the first period. Following a hooking penalty to Austin’s Eli May, Tauros forward Jadin Martin took a pass from defenseman Scott Dornbrock just inside the blue line and blasted a shot through traffic and past Quale.

“It feels great to come back after last night after letting them score three goals in three minutes,” Dornbrock said. “It was nice to shove it back in their face.”

The Bruins tied the game with 13:52 remaining in the second period. Austin’s Sam Kauppila skated past the Tauro defense and beat Madsen stick side.

Dornbrock put the Tauros in front for the second time. He took possession of the puck at the defensive blue line and maneuvered past a couple Austin defensemen before skating in on net and scoring on a backhander. Jack McCann added an empty-net goal for Minot with nine seconds remaining.

“When we scored we didn’t let up,” Dornbrock said. “We just came back hard and never gave them an inch.”

Madsen – playing in his first game with the Tauros – finished with 18 saves.

The Tauros travel to play Wenatchee (Wash.) at 9:05 p.m. Friday.

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.