Cleared for Takeoff

By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com

Blaine, MN – The Minotauros enter their fourth season in the NAHL poised to take the next step in the program’s development.  After a disastrous first season, the team has qualified for the post season each of the last two years, but has also failed to advance past the first round.  The formula each of the last two seasons has been the same, elite goaltending and defense to compensate for the team’s lack of scoring power.  This season, head coach Marty Murray hopes to build on that defensive foundation with a potent offense that can catapult the Tauros to the top of the central division.

As in years past there will be several new faces wearing Tauros gear this season, however they will have some solid veteran NAHLers to help with their transition.  Veteran Tauros Jake Howie, Troy Degler, and Colton Kramer,  who skated on a line together frequently in the preseason, and Alex Kasitsyn round out the returning forward group.  Four defensemen also returned for the Tauros; Johnny Walker, Jared Brandt, Jon Lizotte, and Kyle Kruenegel.  Four more Tauros have names that may be familiar to Tauros fans, Bo Gronseth started last season with the team, and Casey Johnson, Austin Killian, and Quinn Fuchs, all saw time with the club as affiliated players.  In addition to those 12 players whom saw time in Tauros sweaters two NAHL vets forward Nick Monfils and goaltender Atte Tolvanen were acquired via trade from the Corpus Christi Ice Rays and the Minnesota Magicians respectively.

Rounding out the roster are several prospects that performed well in the preseason.  Forwards Lucas Debenedet, Christian Mohs, John Snodgrass, Tim Athley, Chase Springman, and Blake Lizotte, will all see time up front this week.  On the back end Jake Dittel, Rasmus Sorgardt, Max Mettler, and Matt Olson, will help defend Tolvanen and Tanner Holmes

For the Tauros, this group will look to come together quickly as the team has gotten off to slow starts each of the last three seasons.  If the preseason was any indication offense will not be the issue it was in the past.  While the coaching staff is counting on the veteran players to step up and improve on last season’s numbers the rookies will have to adjust quickly as well.  Players like Debenedet, Mohs, and Athley have junior experience from other leagues.  Debenedet posted 124 points in 74 games last season in the SIJHL, Mohs had 33 points in 41 games in the NA3HL, and Athley post 31 points in 43 games playing in Sweden.  While Snodgrass, Springman, Blake Lizotte, Dittle, and Mettler each posted at least a point per game in Minnesota High School play.

Tonight’s opponent the Janesville Jets come in having had the advantage of starting their season already.  They opened the campaign last weekend traveling to Sault Ste. Marie, MI; to play the Soo Eagles where they split their opening weekend series.  They lost the opener 3-2 on Friday before winning 4-3 on Saturday.  Drew Callin had three goals and an assist on the weekend and Brandon Schultz added a pair to lead the offense for the Jets.  In goal Matt Jurusik played both games stopping 57 of 63 shots faced. 

The Tauros and Jets have only played once before, September 12, 2012, when they also met on the first day of the Blaine Showcase.  The Jets won that game 5-3 with 3 power play goals and one short handed tally.  Neither team has a single player left on their roster from that meeting. 

Watch the Game: Join the Minotauros staff at Buffalo Wings and Rings at 910 24th Ave SW, tonight watching the game.  The party will begin at 7:30 p.m. with puck drop at 8:15 p.m.  If you can not make it down to Buffalo Wings and Rings tonight’s game like every Tauros game will be shown on www.fasthockey.com.