Minot, ND – The playoff race in the NAHL Central Division got even tighter this weekend as the top four teams in the division squared off against each other. Coming into the weekend the second place Tauros were hosting the fourth place Austin Bruins while the third place Bobcats hosted first place Aberdeen. The Cats sweep of the Wings combined with the Tauros split with the Bruins only muddied the picture with the Tauros and Cats now eight points behind Aberdeen and the Bruins just two points behind each of them.
On Friday night the Tauros fell behind early with the Bruins striking first just five minutes into the game Hugh Larkin beat Ben Garrity to make it 1-0 Austin. The Bruins continued to pressure out-shooting the Tauros 19-10 in the first but Garrity stood tall keeping the game at 1-0. The Tauros though dominated the second period, outshooting the Bruins 16-10 and out-scoring them 3-1. Dan Russell got the Tauros first just 45 seconds into the period. After Larkin’s second of the game restored the Bruins lead the Tauros got two quick goals to take the lead going into the third. Sam Skinner picked up his seventh of the season and the Kyler Kleven became just the seventh Tauro to score 20 goals in a single season. Camden Gallagher however drew the Bruins back even at 3-3 midway through the third. Five minutes of three-on-three overtime passed without a winner and the game went to a shootout. Hugh Quinn scored on the first attempt of the skills competition getting a favorable bounce off the post. Garrity stopped Jed Pietila and Dante Sheriff in the next two rounds but Kleven, Joseph Harguindeguy, and Russell each failed to convert and the Tauros fell 4-3.
Saturday night the Tauros struck first with Cody Sherman getting his second as a Tauro. Josef Mysak tied the game in the second but Kevin Ness restored the lead late in the period to make it 2-1 going into the third. Protecting a one goal lead for the second night in a row the Tauros were able to add on. Russell made it 3-1 8:51 into the third but Mysak was able to pull the Bruins back within one with his second of the night. With the Bruins net empty late Andranik Armstrong-Kingkade and Cade Stibbe scored to push the final to 5-2 Tauros.
Next up the Tauros head on the road to Aberdeen for a weekend set against the first place Wings. The Tauros are 2-2-1 against the Wings this year including 1-1-0 in Aberdeen. After the weekend set the Tauros and Wings faceoff in Minot on Wednesday, February 12th, in a rescheduled game from October 12th. The three consecutive games against the Wings give the Tauros to pull within two points of defending champions.