Madsen’s performance lifts Tauros in shootout

After sweeping Brookings in its home arena last weekend, the Minot Minotauros weren’t about to let the Blizzard return the favor.

With the road team winning the first three matchups of the season series, the Tauros bucked the trend Saturday with a 2-1 victory at Maysa Arena. It’s Minot’s second win at home in seven contests this year.

Tauros forward Colton Kramer scored the only goal in the shootout and goaltender Merrick Madsen stopped all five Brookings shots. Madsen finished with 24 saves.

“I thought he was excellent tonight,” Tauros coach Marty Murray said of Madsen. “He made some huge saves there and his fingerprints are all over that win tonight.”

Forward Cameron Rowat put the Tauros (5-11-2) in front on a deflection with 8 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the first period. Brookings goaltender Austin Priebe made the initial save on Minot defenseman Max Pernhem’s shot from the blue line, but the rebound popped out in front and careened off Rowat’s leg and into the net.

The second period had plenty of fireworks, but only one goal. It belonged to the Blizzard on the power play. Brookings skater Russ Jordan deflected a shot by Nick DeCenzo in the slot, dropping the puck under the glove of Madsen to tie the game 1-1 at 7:40 of the frame. Twenty seconds earlier, Madsen came up with two huge saves on Michele Marchetty, the first with the handle of his stick and the second with the glove while sprawled out on the ground.

“I was really pleased with the whole team’s effort,” Madsen said. “The fans were there supporting us the whole time so it was a really good game.”

The rest of the period was highlighted by penalties and hot tempers. The teams combined for 10 infractions in the period with Brookings’ Wyatt Schmidt and Pernhem dropping the gloves midway through the stanza. They exchanged right and left hooks, knocking each other’s helmets off. It ended with Schmidt taking Pernhem to the ground.

Brookings (3-10-5) thought it had taken its first lead of the contest with 3:30 left in the second on Marchetty’s beautifully placed wrist shot into the top right corner of the net. But the officials waved it off, ruling the net was off its moorings.

The win moves Minot one point in front of Brookings for the final playoff spot out of the NAHL Central Division.

“We’ve kind of separated ourselves from the top three (in the division), so we’re in a dogfight with Brookings,” Murray said. “Even thought it’s early, these points are huge.”

The Tauros travel to play Bismarck at 7:15 p.m. Friday.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot State University men’s club hockey team and the Minot Minotauros. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.