By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Austin, MN – The Minotauros currently hold a four point lead over the second place Austin Bruins for the top spot in the Central Division. The Bruins being the only team in the Central Division outside of the Dakotas play only 28 games against other Central foes. The Tauros by comparison play 40 of their games inside of the division. The result is the Tauros and Bruins meet only four times in the regular season; this weekend in Austin and the two games the Tauros won in Minot earlier this season.
The Tauros enter the weekend as the NAHL best road team at 13-2-1 in road games. The current 11 game road winning streak is the longest road winning streak in the NAHL since Topeka won 14 in a row in 2008. The Tauros have done this thanks in part to dominant special teams when on the road converting on 27.9% of power plays and killing 89.1% of penalties. The Tauros outscored the Bruins by a combined 6-2 score lead by Jake Howie’s (8g 7a) two goals and an assist as well as James Mathias’s (9g 7a) goal and two helpers. Atte Tolvanen (16-7-3 1.97gaa .923 sv%) stopped 54 of 56 shots from the Bruins in the two wins.
The Bruins offense has been lead by Trevor Boyd (14g 14a) and Luke Dietsch (7g 15a). Recently acquired Tony Uglem (10g 12a) has three goals and five assists since joining the Bruins via trade from the Minnesota Magicians. Jake Kielly (10-4-4 2.35gaa .900sv%) has carried the load since the departure of Zach Driscoll (6-5-3 2.19gaa .921sv%) to the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. Kielly stopped 22 of 24 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Tauros in October.
The weekend presents the Tauros with the opportunity to pull as far as eight points ahead of the second place Bruins; however the Bruins could also pull even at 48 points with the Tauros. With the final meetings between the two clubs taking place with over 20 games remaining in the season it is unrealistic to say that losses for the Tauros would be devastating, but an eight point lead along with a game in hand would put the Tauros in the driver seat down the stretch.
Watch the Games: Both games can be seen on fasthockey.com with 7:05 p.m. puck drops. Friday night will be the Tauros’ January Road Watch Party at Buffalo Wings and Rings in Minot. Doors open for the part at 6:30; admission starts at $15 for fans over 10 years of age and includes all you can eat and drink wings and soda.