Tauros unable to complete weekend sweep

For the first 55 minutes of the game, the Minot Minotauros had very few scoring opportunities.

In the final five minutes, the desperation the Tauros played with Friday began to show Saturday, but time ran out as Minot suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Austin Bruins at Maysa Arena.

Fresh off a 3-1 victory over the Bruins the night before, the Tauros were looking for consecutive victories for the first time since mid-January. The Bruins have been swept in a weekend series just twice the season.

The Tauros (21-30-3) made it a game with a little more than four minutes left when Jake Johnson swatted in a rebound while on the power play. Minot had nearly two minutes of a 5-on-3 power play, but could only manage one shot past Austin goaltender Nick Lehr.

Minot had two golden scoring chances in the final minutes to send the game into overtime. The first was a breakaway attempt by Jake McCann that was stopped by Lehr. The second came in the final seconds when Michael Louria missed a wide-open net from the side of the cage.

“It was a hard-fought battle for 120 minutes this weekend,” Minot coach Marty Murray said. “Our inability to capitalize on opportunities was tough. We had some good looks at the end and came up short.”

The one bright spot for the Tauros was Brookings’ second loss to the Aberdeen Wings in as many nights. Minot still holds a six-point lead over the Blizzard for the final divisional playoff spot with six games left.

“We’re as good as anybody when we play,” Murray said. “For the most part this weekend, when we want to work and compete we can give some teams difficult times. When we sit back and rely on other people to do your job, that’s when we get in trouble.”

The Bruins (35-18-1) jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first period, doubling up their production from Friday.

Austin needed less than six minutes to match its scoring output from the previous night and less than 12 to surpass it. Jay Dickman gave the Bruins their first lead at 5:35 of the opening period on a fortuitous bounce. Alex Pettersson’s slap shot from the blue line deflected off the end boards behind Minot goaltender Brandon Wildung and came out in front. Dickman was in the right place at the right time and slid a puck past Wildung.

“We knew they were going to come with a big push back after last night,” Murray said. “They certainly did. It’s a good, heated rivalry and it’s up for the taking most nights when we play each other.”

Austin’s second goal of the frame also came in front of net, this one of the stick of Casey Jerry. Wildung stopped a shot by Gullaume Lederc, but couldn’t corral the rebound. Through heavy traffic near the crease, Jerry found space and put the puck into the net to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Lehr looked well-rested after getting the night off Friday – a 3-1 victory for the Tauros. The University of Minnesota commit finished with 30 saves for his 31st win this season.

Wildung stopped 26 shots in the loss.

The Tauros host Bismarck on Friday at 7:35 p.m. at Maysa Arena.

Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @mkraft23_MDN.