By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
The Minotauros have played eight of their first nine games away from the Maysa Arena, and Friday will push that to nine of the first 10 as the Minotauros head to Aberdeen. Friday night marks only the second Central Division game for the Tauros who a returning from a two week trip to Alaska. Early in the season the two clubs appear as almost mirror images of each other and their first meeting gives both teams a chance to make an early statement.
On the attack teams have posted almost identical numbers, the Tauros are ninth in the NAHL scoring 3.00 goals per game, while Aberdeen is 12th at 2.90. The Tauros offense has consistently come from their top line of Christian Mohs (5g, 5a), Blake Lizotte (1g, 9a), and Johnny Walker (6g, 2a). Aside from that line the Tauros have had four goals each from James Mathias and Nick Monfils. The Wings offense is driven by rookie Ronnie Hein (7g, 4a) and returner Kyle Haak (4g, 6a).
The key for both teams however has been defense and goaltending. The teams sit second (Aberdeen) and third (Minot) in goals against per game at 2.10 and 2.33 respectively. Aberdeen has been better at limiting shots allowing only 26.10 per game which is good for sixth best in the league while the Tauros allow the 12th most at 28.56. That has not mattered much however as both teams have seen stellar play in net. Atte Tolvanen has already once been named the Central Division star of the week and has posted a .930 sv% and 1.97 GAA for the Tauros having played all but one game. Meanwhile Andrew Shortridge (0.98 GAA, .964 sv%) and Chad Catt (2.95 GAA, .878 sv%) have split time evenly with five games each. The last two weekends Shortridge has started on Friday with Catt taking the Saturday night game but there has been no word on who will start for either club.
With teams as evenly matched as these the special teams battle will be key. Aberdeen is in the middle of the pack in both power play (16.3%, 12th) and penalty kill (80.6%, 17th) while the Tauros are 15th on the power play at 15.4% but tops overall in penalty kill, killing 94.6% of the penalties they have taken.
The Friday night game in Aberdeen is just the front half of a difficult weekend which sees the Tauros play the second place team on the road, then come home to face the first place Austin Bruins on Saturday night. Four points would make a huge statement this early in the season.
Watch the Games: Friday’s game will be show on fasthockey.com and at Buffalo Wings and Rings in Minot (910 24th Ave SW, Minot, ND 58701) as the monthly road watch party. As always for $30 you get all you can eat wings and all you can drink beer, while $15 gets all you eat wings and Pepsi products. Saturday night’s game at home against Austin will also be on fasthockey.com for those who can not attend. For those who can, tickets are still available by clicking here, or on the tickets tab atop this page. Get your tickets now and print them at home to avoid the lines at the Maysa.