By: Ken Oda, minotauroshockey.com
Minot, ND – The Minotauros and Bobcats rivalry is as heated as they come, but never have the two met in the crucible of the postseason. That will change Friday night when the Tauros welcome the Bobcats to the Maysa Arena at 7:35 p.m. for Game One of the Central Division Semi-Final. The Tauros earned home ice advantage by virtue of finishing with a 37-17-6 record good for second in the Central Division. The Bobcats meanwhile finished 30-26-4 and in third place. The Tauros won the season series going 7-3-2 against the Bobcats and outscoring them 43-30 over the 12 games.
Through most of the season the top line of Blake Lizotte (14g 38a), Christian Mohs (18g 33a), and Johnny Walker (20g 22a), was the engine of the Tauros offense. While the Tauros top line re-wrote the franchise record books, six other Tauros forwards reached double digit goal totals giving the Tauros three lines that could strike on any given night. The Tauros also got scoring from their back end; captain Jon Lizotte (10g 24a) finished 10th among NAHL defensemen in scoring and Casey Johnson (7g 15a) posted 22 points as a rookie. The Tauros kept the puck out of the net as well, Atte Tolvanen (26-13-5, 1.94 gaa, .922 sv%) finished with the third best goals against average in the NAHL and second most wins. Bottom line, this is the best team the Tauros have had in their four year history.
The Bobcats meanwhile were lead on offense by co-captains Evan Giesler (28g 28a) and Cullen Willox (22g 27a). Four other Bobcats reached the 10 goal mark, including defenseman Tanner Salsberry (12g 20a) who lead their blue line in scoring. Willie Brown (11g 22a), who was added late in the season in a trade from Topeka, posted five goals and eight helpers for the Capital Kitties in the final 14 games of the year. In net Alex Bitsakis (16-12-3, 2.59 gaa, .911 sv%) and Hunter Shepard (14-14-1, 3.28 gaa, .878 sv%) split time almost evenly.
The Tauros success against the Bobcats has come on from depth players who played some of their best hockey against the in-state rivals. Chase Springman (13g 18a) had 10 of his 31 points against the Cats including five goals. John Snodgrass (14g 16a) also had 10 points against Bismarck on four goals and six helpers. Lastly Colton Kramer (12g 11a) posted six goals and two assists including a hat trick in the final game of the season.
Tickets for Friday’s Game One are still available by clicking here, or on the “Tickets” tab atop this page. Game Two takes place in Bismarck on Saturday night (tickets) then the Teams will return to the Maysa for Game Three on Friday April 10th.
Fans coming to the Maysa should arrive early for the Official Tailgate Party in the upper parking lot with free food and beverage thanks to Allstate Agents Mark A. Havig and Kim Albert, Central Cab, Century Eyewear, Edward Jones – Mark Kohlman, Morelli's Distribution, Norwex, and Superior Cleaning. After you eat at the tailgate party get into the rink early because Liberty Tax of Minot will be giving away cowbells at the door while supplies last.