by: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Cloquet, MN – The Minotauros have been the hottest team in the league since the NAHL Showcase. The Tauros picked up their first win of the season on the second day of the league’s premier event and have not lost since, a run of eight games without a loss. While the Tauros have not lost since September 23rd the Minnesota Wilderness are on an impressive run of their own winning six straight games dating to October 2nd. Since sweeping Kenai River that weekend the Wilderness have gone on to sweep a pair of Central Division opponents in home-and-home series with Austin and the Minnesota Magicians.
The Minotauros third ranks offense (3.73 gpg) should get stronger as Nate Pionk returns after starting the season in the USHL with the Lincoln Stars. Pionk 3 goals and 5 assists in 17 combined regular season and playoff games late last season. The return of Pionk bolsters top six lead by Johnny Walker (10g 8a) who leads the NAHL with 18 points, Chase Springman (5g 7a), and Christian Mohs (4g 6a). The Tauros have also had offense from the blue line, James LaDouce (4g 7a) leads all NAHL defensemen with 11 points; Jake Dittel (1g 5a) and Jared Brandt (1g 4a) are both off to hot starts as well.
The Wilderness offense is posting 3.50 gpg, good for sixth in the NAHL. Tyler Cline (8g 9a) leads the way for the Wilderness and has been the main engine behind their top ranked power play posting 4 goals and 5 assists with the Wilderness up a man. Kobe Roth (1g 9) has 10 points on the year for second on the team. Koby Bender (5g 4a), Ryan Bloom (6g 2a), and former Bismarck Bobcat Alex Toscano (5g 2a) all have at least five goals on the year.
In net Chase Munroe has played 11 of the Wilderness’s 12 games posting an 8-1-1 record with a 1.90 gaa and .923 sv%. For the Tauros Lucas Murray (1.98gaa .915sv%) and Jon Flakne (1.97gaa .912sv%) have split time posting almost identical numbers and four wins each.
For the Tauros a weekend visiting the defending NAHL champions provides a chance to make a strong statement. Pushing the win streak to 10 games would set the Tauros apart as an early favorite for a deep playoff run.
Trade Winds: In order to free a roster spot for Pionk the Minotauros made a trade early this week, sending Owen Larson (3g 0a) to the Minnesota Magicians. In return the Minotauros received a conditional draft pick tied to Larson’s performance for the Magicians.
Watch and Listen: Friday night’s game will be the Minotauros October Road Watch Party at Buffalo Wings and Rings. Tauros fans will have a private room to watch the game; admission includes all you can eat and drink ($25 for wings and beer, $15 for wings and soda, $5 for children under 10). Doors open for the Road Watch Party at 7:00 p.m. on Friday. Both Friday and Saturday night’s games will be shown on ppv through fasthockey.com (click away audio); free audio will be streamed through Prostyle Productions.