Game 1, @ Austin, 7:05 p.m. Riverside Arena.
Austin, MN – The Minot Minotauros are in uncharted territory, advancing to the second round of the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. While the second round may be a new adventure the next obstacle has a rather familiar feeling, as the Tauros will meet the Austin Bruins in the playoffs for the third consecutive spring.
The Bruins won the Central Division regular season crown going 38-11-11 on the year, including 20-4-6 at the Riverside Arena where both Game 1 and 2 will be played. Trevor Boyd (1g 3a) lead the Bruins in scoring in the regular season with 26 goals and 24 assists. The Bruins offense featured a balanced attack, with 10 players overall in double figures in goals. Liam Feeney (0g 5a) and Nico Sturm (4g 0a) lead the Bruins offense in their three game sweep of the Aberdeen Wings. In net Jake Kielly split time this season first with the departed Zach Driscoll and then with Evan Smith. That split continued into the playoffs with Kielly getting two starts and Smith one. Smith started Game 1, and won despite allowing five goals on 20 shots. Kielly then started Game 2 and shut out the Wings and came back to start Game 3 which he stopped 19 of 22 shots.
The Tauros finished second in the Central going 37-17-6 on the year, including a 21-7-2 record on the road. The Tauros offense also featured 10 players with at least 10 goals. The top line of Blake Lizotte (0g 3a), Christian Mohs (1g 1a), and Johnny Walker (1g 1a) lead the way with a combined 52 goals and 93 assists. James Mathias (1g 4a) and Nick Monfils (3g 0a) have lead the Tauros offense in the postseason. Just as it was in the regular season the Tauros net belongs to the Central Division MVP and Goaltender of the Year Atte Tolvanen. Tolvanen allowed just four goals on 63 shots during the first round sweep of the Bobcats.
The Tauros won the season series with the Bruins taking all four games, but the final three of the four meetings went to a shootout. The Tauros outscored the Bruins 10-6 in their four games. Bruin forward Luke Forfar lead all goal scorers with three in series, while Mathias and Jake Howie each had two goals against the Bruins for the Tauros. Kielly played three of the four games against the Tauros posting a .919 sv% while Tolvanen started all four for the Tauros posting a .943 sv%.
Each of the last two years the Tauros have come to Austin and earned a split, only to fall to the Bruins in four games. Both teams have had two weeks off thanks to first rounds sweeps and having to wait for the rest of the NAHL to finish the first round. Game 1 will likely go to which ever team can shake off the rust first.
Watch/Listen to the Game: Tauros fans can watch the game on fasthockey.com or they can come to the Maysa Arena for a road watch party. The game will be shown on two projectors in the trophy room thanks to The Computer Store. The Maysa Concessions and Trophy Room Bar will both be open starting at 6:30 p.m. The game will also be on the radio in Minot on 1390 AM KRRZ.