Taming the Bobcats

Held scoreless through the first two periods for the second time in as many nights, the Minot Minotauros knew one goal wasn’t going to be enough like it was the game prior.

So on Sunday, the Tauros scored twice in the final 20 minutes.

Minot forward Alexander Kasitsyn netted the game-winning goal with 1:10 left and the Tauros rallied for a 2-1 victory against the Bismarck Bobcats at Maysa Arena. Minot has won two straight games for the first time since mid-December.

“When you work hard every moment and in the final minute you score the goal and help your team, it’s awesome,” said Kasitsyn, a native of Moscow, Russia.

Kasitsyn scored his fourth goal of the season after Tanner Holmquist fed him the puck on a 2-on-1 break. Minot has won four of its last five meetings with the Bobcats.

The Tauros (16-20-3) entered the third period trailing 1-0 despite outshooting Bismarck 23-13. Minot played penalty-free for the first 35:50, but looked just as good – if not better – after being whistled for three straight penalties.

Tauros forward Jake McCann had a short-handed breakaway at the tail end of a tripping penalty by Jared Brandt, but Bismarck goaltender Scott Albertoni made a blocker-side save to keep his shutout intact.

Minot went back to the penalty kill less than 20 seconds later when Jacob Howie was also called for tripping. This time the Tauros capitalized on a golden short-handed scoring attempt as Kolton Kramer beat Albertoni over his glove-side shoulder to tie the game with 13:48 left.

“That’s a big play by Kramer,” Tauros coach Marty Murray said. “It’s a big goal for us. We definitely drew some momentum from there.”

Minot goaltender Brandon Wildung came up with a couple big saves in the final minute to preserve the win after the Bobcats (23-12-4) pulled Albertoni for the extra skater. Wildung finished with 17 saves to post his second victory of the weekend.

“I thought we worked hard all night and stuck with it,” Murray said. “In the past I’ve seen our guys get frustrated after having lots of chances, but I thought we stuck with it and played right up until the buzzer and you need that against a team like Bismarck.”

The Tauros outshot the Bobcats 16-9 in the first period, but it was Bismarck that scored the only goal of the frame. The goal seemed to confuse everyone in the arena as the official behind the net signaled the score well before the red light came on.

At 14:47 of the first period, Bismarck’s Nate Repensky fired a shot from just inside the blue line through heavy traffic. Wildung made the save, sending the puck airborne behind him. The puck sat on the top of the net for a split-second before a Bobcat skater jarred it loose with a quick smack of the netting. The puck hit off Wildung’s skate and slid past the goal line.

Albertoni continued to stifle Minot in the second period. He turned away seven shots in the middle frame, many of them on quality scoring opportunities.

Looking to create a spark, Minot defenseman Kyle Kruenegel dropped the gloves with 3:50 left in the second period and duked it out with Bismarck’s Jacob McDowell. Kruenegel got the better of McDowell in the brief altercation, landing a punch or two before both skaters fell to ice.

The Tauros travel to Aberdeen on Friday at 7:15 p.m.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.