By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Minot, ND – The Minotauros look to stay red hot this weekend with the Aberdeen Wings coming to the Maysa Arena. The first place Tauros did not appear to lose a step over the ten day Christmas break topping the Bismarck Bobcats 4-1 on Wednesday night in North Dakota’s capital. Now the Tauros, who at 21-8-3 have the third most points (45) in the NAHL, return to Minot for their first games of 2015.
The Wings come in slumping going 3-7-2 over their last 12 games and all three of those wins have come over last place Brookings. Their recent struggles however do not mean that they are not a dangerous foe. The Wings have taken five points in five meetings with the Tauros thanks mostly to a sweep at the Maysa winning a shootout on Halloween and following it up with a 1-0 victory the next night. Michael Soucier (10g 12a) has lead the way against the Tauros with three goals and two assists over the five previous meetings. Wings leading scorer Kyle Haak (8g 18a) also has five points, all assists, this season against Minot. In net Andrew Shortridge (9-7-1, 2.58 GAA, .908 SV%) has started four of the meetings against the Tauros however Chad Catt (6-9-1, 2.77 GAA, .896 SV%) has received more of the playing time of late.
For the Tauros the key has been a balanced offensive attack. The top line of Blake Lizotte (9g 28a), Christian Mohs (12g 24a), and Johnny Walker (13g 10a) continues to produce at a record pace; and while that line has been the engine driving the Tauros offense several other players have taken their turn to step up and provide support. For example Wednesday night saw Nick Monfils (6g 7a) and James Mathias (8g 7a) each post multi-point games; 16 Tauros have points over the last five games and 12 Tauros have at least 11 points on the season. The result is the top offense in the Central Division at 3.28 goals per game.
The Tauros are not just good at one end of the ice however. The Tauros defense has allowed the the third fewest shots against per game surrendering just 25.41 attempts per game against their goaltenders. Once pucks do get through Atte Tolvanen (16-7-2, 2.05 GAA, .921 SV%) and Tanner Holmes (5-1-1, 2.12 GAA, .901 SV%) have not let many through combining for the top save percentage in the division at .912. The result is a measly 2.25 team GAA good for fourth in the NAHL and having all seven defensemen on the roster currently with plus ratings lead by, Casey Johnson (5g 8a), Rasmus Sorgardt (1g 6a), and Luke Davison (2g 2a) all at +11.
The Tauros finished 2014 as one of the most dominant teams in the North American Hockey League, however there are still 28 regular season games remaining before this team can try to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. If the playoffs were to start today they would start with Aberdeen coming to the Maysa Arena, 2-1-0 on the season. 2015 can be a big year for the Tauros, Friday night at 7:35 they will look to start it right.
Watch the Game: Tickets for both games are still available by clicking the “tickets” tab atop this page. Both Friday and Saturday night’s games start at 7:35 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. For those fans who can not come to the Maysa Arena the game will be on fasthockey.com.