By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
For the Minotauros, the 2013/14 season in many ways felt like a repeat of 2012/13. A slow start followed by a dominating November and December and then a long fight the final three months of the season to clinch a playoff spot. To continue the similarities the Tauros will once again face the Austin Bruins in the best of five first round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
Last season the Bruins eliminated the Tauros after four hard fought games, two of which went to overtime. Jadin Martin’s goal in overtime of Game 2, gave the Tauros their first franchise playoff win. Austin outscored the Tauros 8-5 in the four game set, and it was clear what the Tauros lacked was an elite scorer.
While the Tauros continued to struggle to consistently put pucks in the net this season, it was also clear that the team’s defense had improved allowing 21 fewer goals than they had last year. At the trade deadline head coach/gm Marty Murray showed that he had learned a lesson from last season’s playoffs and acquired Michael Louria, who at the time had 19 goals and 21 assists for the Janesville Jets. Louria has posted a point per game since joining the Tauros on seven goals and five assists.
The key for the Tauros this series will be getting off to good starts. In eight regular season meetings with the Bruins, Austin outscored the Tauros 8-2 in the first period. In the two games that the Tauros won the score was 2-1 Tauros and a 0-0 tie after the first period. In the six losses the Tauros were out scored a combined 7-0 through the first 20 minutes. Both teams have a combined 14 goals in the second and third period of the eight regular season meetings.
For the Tauros offense against the Bruins has come from some of the Tauros veterans. Tim Donohue and Martin have four points each, and defenseman Scott Dornbrock has three. Defenseman Jon Lizotte also has three points against the Bruins and lead the Tauros in scoring with 25 points. Louria also has had success against the Bruins with two goals and an assist in four games. In net Brandon Wildung and Merrick Madsen split time against the Bruins. Wildung posted a .917 sv% while Madsen’s was .895; each goaltender picked up a win against the Bruins.
Defensively the Tauros will need to find a way to stop the NAHL’s second leading scorer Jay Dickman. Dickman recorded 64 points in 59 games this season; seven of which came in the eight games against the Tauros. Bruins’ second leading scorer Guillaume Leclerc had six points against the Tauros including three goals. Defenseman Josh Bretner had a goal and six assists against the Tauros. Goaltender Nick Lehr played in seven of the meetings this season, posting a 1.50 GAA and .930 sv%.
Special teams will probably play a large roll in what should be a low scoring series. Through the first eight meetings the Tauros went 4 for 37 on the man advantage while the Bruins went 2 for 22. Both teams struggled on the power play in the regular season Austin finished at 12.4% 21st with the man advantage while the Tauros finished 24th at 10.3%.
The series starts tonight with Game 1 in Austin, with Game 2 right away tomorrow night. Then the series shifts to Minot next weekend with Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Saturday. Game 5 will be back in Austin on Monday April 15th, if needed.
Roadwatch Parties: Games 1 and 2 in Austin will be shown at the Spicy Pie in Minot. There will be no cover charge to get into the parties, and fans can order off the regular menu. Tauros staff will be on hand at 6:30 p.m. both nights from 7:05 puck drops.
Tickets: Tickets for Game 3 are available for by clicking here, Game 4 tickets will become available as soon as it is assured to be played. Tauro fans looking to get tickets for Games 1 and 2 can do so here.