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Fighting to the Finish

By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com

Minot, ND – On paper, the Minotauros should never have been in this series.  With 51 points in the regular season the Minotauros had the fewest of any team to make the post season; in fact, three teams that failed to qualify from other division had more points than the Tauros.  Austin on the other hand won the Central Division, had the NAHL’s second leading scorer and fifth ranked goaltender in Jay Dickman and Nick Lehr, and had taken six of the eight meetings in the regular season. 

That did not matter to Minot, the Tauros were not intimidated by the daunting task ahead and proved so with a stunning 8-6 win in Game 1 in Austin.  They battled hard in a 2-1 loss the next night in Game 2 that brought the best of five series back to the Magic City even at 1-1.  The Tauros faithful packed the Maysa Arena to support their team, and the Tauros gave their fans an unforgettable show in return.

Friday’s Game 3 continued the hard fought trend of the series, at time literally.  Austin took a 2-0 by the end of the first period with goals from Casey Jerry and Niko Hildenbrand.  The Tauros physical play throughout the series got under the Bruins skin during the second period and the visitors lost their composure.  The Tauros were granted five power plays including a pair of five-on-three advantages, there were also a pair of fights.  The first fight came about halfway through the period when Tim Donohue and Jake Arroyo went right off of the draw.  The Tauros captain won handily and fired up his team.  The second came after Brian Bachnak took a run at Luke Voltin.  Voltin took exception to the hit and the pair dropped the gloves, Bachnak landed more punches but Voltin sent Bachnak to the box bloodied and battered.  In total the second period saw 56 penalty minutes assessed 34 of which were on the Bruins.  The Tauros however were unable to capitalize on their power play chance until the final minute.  With a two man advantage Donohue went to the front of the net, while Scott Dornbrock sent the puck from the left to the right point where Jon Lizotte fired a shot passed Nick Lehr who never saw it thanks to Donohue’s screen.  Headed into the third period Austin’s coaching staff was able to get their players’ emotions in check and the game settled back into five-on-five hockey.  The Tauros generated several quality chances but could not solve Lehr a second time and fell 2-1 for the second game in a row.

Game 4 on Saturday night started off well for the Tauros.  Donohue got his third of the playoffs at the 18:28 mark and just 0:11 later Voltin doubled the Minotauros lead.  The teams traded goals in the first half of the second.  Easton Viitala beat Brandon Wildung after the Tauros turned it over at their own blue line.  Cam Rowat then extended the lead back to two for the Tauros when he found a loose puck on a net-mouth scramble and beat Lehr to the open side.  Then a pair of questionable calls hurt the Tauros.  A big hit by Dornbrock was whistled as roughing, the Bruins power play had been 0/13 in the series but with one of the Tauros top killers in the box it took just 0:16 for the Bruins to cash in to pull within a goal.  Then at 15:31 a debatable too many men call with the Tauros in the attacking zone lead to another power play for the Bruins.  A quick play off of the first draw of the power play saw Wildung moved quickly side to side; in doing so the net was bumped off to his left.  Wildung made the initial save yet play continued despite the net being knocked free, the rebound was put home by Lucas Kohls and the game was tied. The game would remain tied for the next 81:16.  The teams would trade chances through almost three full overtimes before Kohls would strike again with just 3:02 left to play in the third overtime to give the Bruins a 4-3 win, and 3-1 series victory.

Thank You Fans: Thank you once again to everyone who has supported the Tauros; whether you just started following us during these playoff games or have been with us from the start you mean the world to us.  The 2013/14 season has come to an end but we are already working on 2014/15,so stay tuned to minotauroshockey.com along with our Facebook and Twitter pages for all the off-season news including, player moves, draft resutls, next season's schedule and  where you can find Tank around town this summer.