By: Ken Oda, gotauros.com
photo credit: Jamie Goebel
Blaine, MN – The 2017-18 Minot Minotauros fell just short in their bid to capture the franchise’s first Robertson Cup Championship falling to the Shreveport Mudbugs 2-1 in the Robertson Cup Final.
Playing his final game as a Tauro Nolan Sawchuk opened the scoring 9:31 into the first period with a shot off of an Ondrej Pavel faceoff win. The Tauros carried the play in the opening frame outshooting the Mudbugs 8-6 and keeping most of the play in the Shreveport zone. However they could not find a second goal in the frame.
As the second period progressed it was clear that the Mudbugs benefited from a day off after sweeping the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in the Semi-Final round while the Tauros were playing their fourth game in as many days after Sunday’s Game Three win over Fairbanks. The ice tilted more and more in the Mudbugs favor and finally a fluky blind flip bounced off three players and surprised Samu Lonkila to tie the game. Despite the Tauros being outshot 10-2 in the second Lonkila kept the Tauros even at 1-1 heading into the third.
Just 3:28 into the third Cole Quisenberry redirected a shot from the point over Lonkila to give the Mudbugs their first lead of the game. The Tauros pushed as hard as they could, including a pair of great chances in the waning moments of the game but could not beat Robertson Cup Tournament MVP Jaxon Castor a second time.
The loss in the National Championship game while painful is a much greater accomplishment than many thought this group was capable of. The 16th and final seed in the playoffs the Tauros were never favored to win a playoff round and still won three.
Taking an admittedly way too early look ahead this group is set up nicely for another successful season in the 2018-19 campaign. Ten forwards, four defenseman, and one goalie from the playoff roster are eligible to return and that does not include the hero of the regular season Nick Grabko. Of course Grabko, Pavel, and defenseman Colby Enns were selected in the USHL draft and may or may not be returning to the Tauros. Regardless of their fate, the Tauros can have as many as 16 players from this year’s team with the experience and knowledge of what it takes to win in the NAHL.