by: Alex Kyrias, nahl.com
This story originally ran on NAHL.com, for more league news including all 23 team previews go to NAHL.com
The 23 in 23 series features a look at all 23 teams in the NAHL for the 2017-18 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 23 in 23 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with 23 coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Marty Murray (7th year)
2016-17 record: 38-18-4, 80 pts. (1st in the Central Division)
2016-17 leading scorer: Reid Stefanson (53 points)
2017 Playoffs: Lost in the Central Division Semi-Finals to the Aberdeen Wings, 3 games to 1
2017-18 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 20th vs. Shreveport Mudbugs
Home opener: Friday, October 6th vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
On paper, last season was the most successful one in the six-year history of the Minot Minotauros franchise in the NAHL. The team won 38 games, posted 80 points and captured the Central Division regular season title. The team also debuted their renovated and state-of-the-art rink inside the Maysa Arena in Minot. The Minotauros were dominant last season against teams in the Central Division, posting a 34-18-4 record, which was one of the main reasons behind them winning the division by 10 points last season.
The Minotauros were also remarkably consistent. They ranked 7th in the NAHL in both goals for and goals against per game. They had 11 players on the roster post 20+ point seasons. Minotauros head coach Marty Murray arguably did his finest job in his six years of coaching the team and earned the Central Division General Manager of the Year Award for his efforts. Also being recognized was forward and leading scorer Reid Stefanson, who was named to the All-Central Division Team, forward Alex Adams was named to the All-NAHL Rookie 2nd Team, and Tyler Jeanson who won the division’s community service award.
However, all the good feelings came to a halt with a premature exit in the playoffs after the Minotauros were defeated by a red hot Aberdeen Wings team, 3 games to 1 in the Central Division Finals. It did not help matters any that Minot lost the first two games at home, thus eliminating any home ice advantage the Minotauros had built up during the 60-game regular season. “To at least not get a split out of Minot was very difficult to comprehend,” Murray said. “Obviously, we would have loved to have won both games in Minot. But, especially after losing Game 1 and understanding the importance of Game 2, not having a very good (second) game, that to me was a disappointing one.”
Murray continued… “The result was disappointing. We went into the playoffs hoping for some pretty big things and we had some pretty lofty goals on our end. It is one of the great things about our division is that it is so competitive each and every night. I have said it for months that whoever we were going to play in the first round were going to be tough. That’s the way it is. I felt like we had a team last year that was able to get there.”
Minot did have a great season in the NCAA commitment department, with 10 players making a commitment from last year’s team, which included Stefanson committing to UMass-Lowell and Adams committing to Air Force. “The opportunities and quality of hockey that the NAHL provides is incredible for these players,” said Murray. “It is a privilege to be involved and play in such great exposure events. It is all focused on advancement, which remains our common goal as coaches.”
“I have learned a lot about the NAHL in my six years and the league continues to impress me. We had a veteran team last year, so this year we are going to be quite a bit younger. We have set the bar high with last year’s team, but I think we have injected some high-quality youth into this year’s team, so I am excited to see what we bring to the table,” said Murray.
“Knowing how competitive our division is, we want to be a team that has a lot of skill, can skate well and can possess the puck. With that said, we start right away with looking for guys who have a strong compete level and a desire to succeed. We have to be difficult to play against,” said Murray when stacking up the competition for the 2017-18 season.
“We have had some strong community support and we would like nothing more than to bring a Robertson Cup to Minot, but we know it takes something extra in order to be called a Champion. It would be huge for the team and the town. We are lucky to call Minot home with this junior hockey team. Hopefully, we will continue to produce a good product on the ice and get over this hump of not getting out of the division in the playoffs,” said Murray. “The competition makes our players get better every day.”
Next up in the 23 in 23 series: New Jersey Titans