By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
The Minotauros will face a tough test to close out 2014 as they head to Bismarck to continue what has been a white hot rivalry. The Tauros enter with a 4-1-1 record against the Bobcats this season including a 3-0-0 record in the capital of North Dakota this season. The teams have combined for 45 goals over the six meetings as well as 356 penalty minutes.
The Tauros offense currently ranks eighth in the NAHL at 3.26 goals per game despite ranking 16th in the league in shots per game at just 28.10. The jump in scoring output compared to shot output is a testament to the quality of scoring chances the Tauros are creating. At a 14th best 17.1% on the power play only 24 of the Tauros 101 goals have come on the power play, meaning the Tauros have done most of their damage at even strength. The top line of Blake Lizotte, Christian Mohs, and Johnny Walker are rewriting the Minotauros record books combining for 33 goals and 59 assists and a +56 rating. Chase Springman has also been on a hot streak with 11 points over the last 10 games climbing to third on the Tauros.
The Bobcats offense has ridden the league’s second best power play to the 10th overall ranked offense at 3.09 goals per game. Co-captains Cullen Willox and Evan Giesler have lead the Cats with a combined 30 goals and 28 assists through 32 games. Matt Perry is the only other Bobcat with more than six goals, and when combined with the co-captains the trio has scored 40% of Bismarck’s goals.
As for keeping the puck out of the net, the Tauros have been a top five team on the season all year. Atte Tolvanen is currently sixth in the league with a 2.10 GAA, and Tanner Holmes's 2.12 GAA would be good for 8th had he played enough games to qualify. Both goalies have been helped out be a defense which allows the third fewest shots against per game at just 25.13; the result a combine 2.29 GAA which is good for 4th overall in the NAHL. The Bobcats duo of Alex Bitsakis and Hunter Shepard have the Bobcats sitting at 18th in the NAHL in GAA at 3.22, while the 28.84 shots against per game allowed by their defense is good for 11th in the league.
The New Year’s Eve match-up marks the fourth meeting of the month between the two clubs, and sixth meeting in seven weeks. The Tauros strong play this season has brought the already hot rivalry to another level. Tickets to the game are available on bismarckbobcats.com. Fans who will not be making the trip to Bismarck can catch the game on 1390AM KRRZ in Minot or can watch on fasthockey.com.