By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Cloquet, MN – The first place Minotauros faced perhaps their most challenging weekend of the season and passed the test in impressive fashion taking four points from the second place Minnesota Wilderness. The Tauros came in shorthanded as illness kept defenseman Erik Holmstrom from making the trip and suspension held defenseman Jake Dittel out of Friday’s game. That left the Tauros with only five defensemen on the trip, just four of whom were eligible to dress on Friday. Despite that Tauros went toe-to-toe and evened the season series at five games apiece with the Minnesota Wilderness thanks to a weekend sweep.
Friday night belonged to the goaltenders, the Tauros’ Austin Park and the Wilderness’s Trevor Micucci. The duo stopped every shot taken in regulation and overtime with Park stopping 40 shots and Micucci 45. That sent the game to a shootout and through the first three shooters the goaltenders’ remained perfect. Nate Pionk finally found the back of the net with a quick wrister beating Micucci 5-hole, but Park was beat by Zack Mills in the bottom of the frame to force a fifth round. Michael Talbot used a quick move the glove side to beat Micucci and then Park stopped Pavel Mikhasenok to give the Tauros the win. With the shutout Park became the first Tauro goaltender to have shutouts in back-to-back starts.
On Saturday night, it did not take nearly as long for a puck to find its way behind a goaltender. Alex Adams got his 18th of the season just 1:51 into the game. The goal came with the Tauros on the power play and ended a run of 20 consecutive scoreless man advantages. Luke Dow finally beat Park for the Wilderness ending the goaltender’s Tauro record 139:55 shutout streak 3:48 into the game. Less than three minutes later Zach Mills was left alone at the side of the net and was able to give the Wilderness the lead. The game continued to seesaw however as Adams would get his second of the night early in the third period when he pounced on a rebound in front of Wilderness goaltender Luke Kania and flicked it into the net. Once again the Tauros and Wilderness would head into a third period tied. Austin Dollimer gave the Tauros the lead at 6:35 of the third getting his eighth of the season off of a feed from Austin Martinsen. For Martinsen it was his first point since returning to the Tauros after starting the season in the USHL. Then in the final minute with the Wilderness net empty Louis Roehl found a rebound and sent it passed Park to tie the game with 52 seconds remaining. Like the previous night the game would go to overtime, but unlike Friday’s game the Tauros would end it before the skills competition when Pionk and Adams combined on an odd man rush with Pionk netting his 11th of the season for the game winner.
Next up for the Tauros is a meeting with Austin Bruins who despite being a division rival make their first trip to Minot next weekend. The Tauros swept the only weekend meetings between the two clubs the final weekend of October in Austin. Tickets for both games are still available by clicking the “TICKETS” tab atop this page.