Forcing Five

by Ken Oda, gotauros.com

Minot, ND – For the second weekend in a row the Minotauros and Aberdeen Wings split leaving their best-of-five playoff series even at two games apiece.  The Tauros put themselves in a do-or-die situation after a controversial loss on Friday but bounced back with a dominating effort on Saturday night with a 3-1 win.

On Friday the Tauros scored first when captain Alex Adams scored just 6:10 into the game.  Unfortunately for the Tauros that was the last goal they would score that would count.  Joe Strada answered Adam’s goal just 1:26 after it was scored to tie the game 1-1.  Aberdeen would take a 2-1 lead early in the second on John Sladic’s first goal of the playoffs.  Later in the period it appeared that the Tauros Miroslav Mucha had tied the game again scoring from right circle off of a Connor McGinnis rebound.  However referee Robert Babcock IV waived the goal off having lost sight of the puck and believing the Wings’ goaltender Matt Vernon had it in his glove Babcock blew his whistle just as Mucha’s shot went into the net.  With the goal not counting the score remained 2-1 Wings and the Tauros trailed heading into the final period.

Then in the third as the Tauros attempted to mount a comeback Ondrej Pavel crashed into Vernon triggering a melee on the ice.   During the scrum McGinnis and Aberdeen’s Nathan Burke were the two most aggressive with Burke throwing several gloved punches at McGinnis.  After the dust settled four players were sent to the penalty box including McGinnis who was given 12 penalty minutes, however somehow Burke was not included in the group of penalized players. As the Tauros push for an equalizer continued Alex Adams was sent to the penalty box with just over five minutes remaining.  On the ensuing power play Burke scored an insurance goal with McGinnis still siting in the penalty box. Jonathan Bendorf added an empty netter with 22 seconds remaining to push the final to 4-1.

Facing elimination the Tauros came out guns blazing on Saturday.  The group which has played their best hockey all season with their back against the wall continued the trend outshooting the Wings 10-4 in the first period.  Despite the ice being tilted in the Tauros favor for the first the Tauros did not open the scoring until Ryan Green found a loose puck and hammered it past Vernon from in tight 2:28 into the second.  The Tauros continued to control play for most of the period and as pressure once again built to a crescendo Nolan Sawchuk blasted a shot past Vernon to double the Tauro lead.

A pair of late penalties which led to a five-on-three advantage allowed the Wings to get some sustained offensive pressure but the Tauros killed them both including 1:30 that carried into the start of the third period.  Then after killing the penalty early in the third the Tauros earned a power play of their own and Adams scored his second goal in as many nights and third overall of the playoffs to push the Tauro advantage to 3-0.  With just under nine minutes to play Nic Sicoly broke through for Aberdeen deflecting a puck past Samu Lonkila ending his shutout bid.  That was as close as the Wings would get however as the Tauros closed out the 3-1 victory.

With the Tauros and Wings splitting the first four games of the series the teams will meet in a decisive Game 5 Monday night in Aberdeen.  The winner will advance to face the Austin Bruins in the Central Division Finals to determine which club will represent the division at the Robertson Cup Finals in Blaine, Minnesota next month.