By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Brookings, SD – The fifth edition of the Minot Minotauros begin their quest for the Robertson Cup this weekend in Brookings with a pair of games against the Central Division rival Blizzard. This season marks the first time the Tauros start regular season games prior to the NAHL Showcase event in Blaine, Minnesota; which takes place next week. Also unlike previous seasons the Tauros have made most of their cuts prior to the start of the season. Since teams do not have to be down to their final 23 man rosters until October it is not uncommon to see teams bring 25 or more players to Blaine; the Tauros will be bringing just 24 to Brookings.
The Tauros return three of last season’s top five scorers in Christian Mohs (18g 33a) , Johnny Walker (20g 22a), and Chase Springman (13g 18a) to this season’s rosters. The Tauros also return depth on the back end with Jared Brandt (3g 14a), Jake Dittel (5g 8a), Luke Davison (2g 10a), and Max Mettler (3g 9a) all returning from a defense corps that was one of only two to have every defenseman on the final roster finish with at least a +1 rating. In net for the first time in three seasons the Tauros will be without a proven 20-year-old veteran. Jon Flakne and Lucas Murray a pair of 1996 birth year players will battle for the job. Flakne is no stranger to the Larson Ice Center, having shut out the Blizzard there last season as an Affiliate Player for the Tauros last season.
The Blizzard do not have a single player from their top seven scorers returning for the upcoming season. Connor Hutchins (6g 10a) has the most points of any returning Blizzard player. They do bring back three defensemen from last season in Gavin Mindt (0g 0a), T.J. Samec (5g 10a), and Connor Spetz (2g 6a). In net third year veteran Eric Hancock (8-14-4 3.37gaa .888sv%) returns to be joined by rookie Josh Kuehmichel.
The Tauros dominated the head-to-head series last season going 10-1-1 against the Snowmen and outscoring them 40-19 in the process. The Tauros lone regulation loss came in the two clubs first meeting of the season which the Tauros dropped 4-1. Walker was the most dominate player in the 12 games posting 8 goals and 5 assists against the Blizzard. Returning Tauro forward Troy Degler had 3 of his 5 goals on the season against the Blizzard. Samec’s 2 goals and 2 assists was good for second on the Blizzard against the Tauros and lead Brookings among players returning to the Blizzard.
The opening weekend of the season is always a challenge. For several players on both squads will be playing their first junior game while others will be playing with new linemates for the first time. The Tauros have the edge in experience and that should help, but with a mostly new squad in Brookings expect the Blizzard to come out looking to erase the stigma of last season.
Listen & Watch: The Tauros are proud to announce the launch of the Minotauros Network which will give you three ways to follow the games. First as always you can watch the pay-per-view video stream on Fasthockey.com. Second, you can listen live to an audio only call of the game on your computer or phone on the Prostyle Productions Online Network. You can also click the banner on the Minotauros home page to hear the audio stream. Finally, the Tauros will have several games on 1390 AM KRRZ in Minot including Saturday night’s game in Brookings and the first three games of the NAHL Showcase. As part of the Minotauros Network, for the first time Tauros play-by-play voice Ken Oda will be on the call for all 60 Minotauros regular season games and playoffs. You can hear him on Fasthockey.com by clicking the “away” audio button when the Tauros are the away team and the “home” button when they are at the Maysa. The Tauros call will be the only audio option for both internet and terrestrial radio.