By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Minot, ND – Familiarity breeds contempt, and though the Minotauros and Bruins do not meet as often other NAHL Central Division opponents during the regular season their rivalry has been forged in the crucible of the Robertson Cup Playoffs for three seasons in a row. Their epic postseason wars have become a spring tradition, though the Tauros have come out on the wrong side in each of the first three meetings. This year the Tauros look to change that.
For the first time the Tauros enter the playoff series with home ice advantage, having finished 14 points ahead of the Bruins for second place in the Central Division. Despite the Tauros finishing 35-19-6 and far ahead of the Bruins 29-27-4 record the rivals battled to a stalemate in the regular season with each club posting a 4-3-1 record.
Aside from regular season record, the Tauros hold the edge in most of the statistical categories. The Tauros averaged 3.08 goals per game while the Bruins posted 3.02; the Tauros also surrendered fewer goals at 2.63 per game compared to 2.80 for the Bruins. The Tauros also took more shots (32.30 to 31.15), allowed fewer shots against (27.7 to 29.60), and spent less time in the penalty box on average (18.43 to 20.25) than the Bruins. The Bruins however hold the edge on both special teams units converting on 20.4% of the power plays and killing 84.2% of their penalties compared to 15.6% and 80.0% respectively for the Tauros.
Each team posts elite top end scoring. The Bruins Gilbert Gabor (21g 37a) and Jade Miller (29g 22a) finished top 20 in the NAHL in scoring with 58 and 51 points respectively. Jacob Paganalli (13g 30a) is third on the team in scoring and lead the Bruins against the Tauros with three goals and five assists. With Justin Misiak (17g 18a) and Austin Rueschhoff (19g 12a) the Bruins have five players with at least 30 points.
Meanwhile the Tauros have eight players with at least 30 points. Christian Mohs (17g 33a) lead the team with 50 points on the season and newcomers Max Reisinger (15g 26a) and Matt Jennings (15g 25a) both had over 40. Derek Frentz (17g 21a), Chase Springman (14g 21a), James LaDouce (10g 25a), Zack Bross (12g 19a), and Tyler Jeanson (10g 21a) round out the 30 point club for the Tauros.
On offense the “x-factor” may be the Tauros defensemen. Tauros’ blue-liners ranked fifth as a group with 141 points on 27 goals and 114 assists; conversely Austin’s defense corps finished 19th posting just 12 goals and 66 assists for 78 points. Coincidently, Paganalli and LaDouce who topped the season series for the respective teams will both miss Game One due to suspension.
In goal the Tauros’ Gunner Rivers put up sensational numbers after being acquired via trade in February going 10-2-2 with a 1.77 GAA, .944 sv%, and three shutouts after the trade. For Austin Kristofer Carlson played the majority of the games posting a 22-18-2 record on a 2.54 GAA and .916 SV%.
Strangely home ice advantage has not mattered much between these two teams, with each winning three games in the other’s building this year. Reversing that trend this weekend in Minot would put the Tauros in excellent position going to Austin next weekend, as the Tauros 18-9-3 road record was fourth best in the NAHL.
Tickets and Tailgating: Tickets for the weekend’s games in Minot are still available under the “Tickets” tab atop this page. There will be Tailgate Parties for both Game One and Game Two, with free food and drinks thanks to Allstate Agent Mark A. Havig & Kacey Cope, Central Cab – Lyle Heide, Edward Jones – Mark Kohlman, Morelli's Distribution, Superior Cleaning – Don & Angie Rostad, Valley Custom Meats – Minot, and the Hyatt Family. Please click the links for the tailgate parties to RSVP so that there is enough food for everyone.