By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
The Tauros finally broke through at home in a hard fought 2-0 victory over the Brookings Blizzard. Max Mettler opened the scoring with a shot from the point that beat Ryan Kubic five hole; and James Mathias iced the game away late in the third with a wrist shot from the left circle. Atte Tolvanen made 22 saves earning his second shutout of the season and breaking the Tauros month long home losing streak. Now the Tauros put another streak to the test, a nine game road winning streak has earned the Tauros the best road record in the league.
The season set with the Bobcats has seen the road team win each of the first four games. With the exception of the most recent meeting, a 4-1 Bismarck victory at the Maysa the Tauros have not struggled to find offense against their southern rivals, posting 17 goals in the other three meetings. The Tauros top scorers Blake Lizotte (8g 25a) and Christian Mohs (9g 20a) each have seven points against the Bobcats this year, and sit in the top ten in the NAHL. Chase Springman (8g 11a) has had some of his most productive games against the Cats as well posting three goals and two assists over the four meetings.
On defense the Tauros will need to slow down Bobcat co-captain Evan Giesler who has three goals and an assist against the Tauros to lead the Bobcats. Giesler’s co-captain Cullen Willox has only played in two of the meetings due to injury but still has four assists against the Tauros on the year.
In net both teams’ backup goaltenders have posted better numbers in the rivalry than the starters have. For the Tauros Tanner Holmes has posted a .922 SV% and a shutout against the Bobcats and Bismarck’s Hunter Shepard has won both of his starts against the Tauros. Meanwhile Atte Tolvanen and Alex Bitsakis have both struggled in the matchup despite each appearing in the top 10 of NAHL goaltenders rankings.
As is often the case the power play may be the key to victory. The Tauros are converting at a respectable 18.2% of their power plays against the Bobcats, but the Cats are scoring on 28.6% of theirs. Discipline will be a major key in a series that often sees tempers flair both on the ice and the benches.
Tonight’s game can be heard locally in Minot on KRRZ 1390-AM and as always can be seen on fasthockey.com. After tonight the Tauros will return home to host Bismarck and Brookings next Friday and Saturday respectively. Friday night will be the Tauros’ annual Teddy Bear Toss Night with the bears being donated to the Minot Police Department and the Domestic Crisis Center. Tickets for both games can be purchased by clicking on the “Tickets” tab atop this page.