Brookings, SD – The Minot Minotauros close out the regular season this weekend in the same building they opened it in in September as they take on the Brookings Blizzard. The Tauros dropped both of those games, first in a shootout then in overtime, but since then have gone 34-18-4 and guaranteed a top two finish in the NAHL Central Division. Meanwhile the Blizzard stumbled after that initial success but have won five of their last six as they push for the Central’s final playoff spot.
The Tauros come as one of the best teams in the league down the stretch going 15-2-3 over the last 20 games. One of the biggest reasons for that has been the play of Gunner Rivers (17-9-3) who was named the NAHL Vaughn Hockey Goaltender of the Month for his play in March. Since being acquired Rivers has a 1.75 GAA and .945 SV%. Matt Jennings (15g 24a) and Max Reisinger (15g 25a) have also been dominant since being acquired via trade this winter. Derek Frentz (17g 21a) has posted 16 points over the last 20 games and Christian Mohs (15g 33a) is one point away from being the Tauros first player with 100 career points.
The Blizzard enter the weekend with control of the Central’s final playoff spot, however the Magicians and Wings are right on their heels. The Magicians are tied with the Blizzard on points but have one fewer win than Brookings, Aberdeen is a point behind the pair and still in striking distance. The Blizzard have the tie breakers over both however and will advance into the post season if they can win out. Griff Jeszka (15g 30a), Kane Durment (17g 24a) and Mikael Hakkarinen (13g 27a) lead the Brookings offense. In net Josh Kuehmichel (14-12-2) has been the goalie of record over the last seven games and appears to have won the starting job.
While Brookings is desperate the games still hold meaning for the Minotauros who are within striking distance of Bismarck for the top spot in the Central. The Tauros need to get three more points than the Bobcats this weekend in order to win the division. That can happen with either a Tauros sweep coupled with Bismarck being held to one point or less, or a Tauros win and overtime loss paired with the Magicians sweeping the Bobcats.
Regardless of the results of any games this weekend the Tauros already know that they will open the Robertson Cup Playoffs with home games on April 15th and 16th at the Maysa. After this weekend they will finally know who the opponent will be.