By Andrew Lennox Minot, ND – This weekend, the Highway 83 rivalry continued as the Minot Minotauros took on the Bismarck Bobcats. The home-and-home series kicked off in North Dakota’s capital before shifting back to the Pepsi Rink at Maysa Arena on Saturday.
Friday night, the two teams were knotted at zero until the 13:53 mark of the first period when Bismarck’s forward Nico Chmelevski netted his fifth goal of the season off a beautiful backdoor feed from Calvin Hanson. The Bobcats would strike again late in the period when Hanson’s shot from the high slot beat Tauros goalie Noah Rupprecht five-hole to make it 2-0.
The Bobcats continued to pile it on in the second period by scoring two power-play goals. The first came off the stick of Adam Pietila, while Michael Neumeier scored the second. The first power-play goal resulted in Rupprecht getting pulled in favor of Lawton Zacher.
During the frame, Minot’s Hunter Longhi scored his 16th goal of the season with the help of defenseman Weston Knox and forward John Emmons, putting the Tauros on the board.
Going into the final twenty minutes of the contest, the Tauros found themselves down 4-1. However, Minot would cut the lead in half at the 8:27 mark when Colby Joseph, in his 100th career Tauros game, potted his 8th goal of the season. Kolby Amici and Joe Blackley provided the assists.
Bismarck didn’t waste any time responding, as Hanson scored his second goal of the game just 26 seconds later, extending their lead to 5-2. Hanson didn’t stop there, as he scored again on the power play to complete his hat trick and earn his fourth point of the game with only 6:01 remaining in regulation, putting the game entirely out of reach at 6-2.
Saturday night was a wild affair as both teams produced a combined tally of 10 goals, 80 shots, 17 penalties, 52 penalty minutes, and 14 power plays. In addition, three franchise records were broken during the game.
Bobcats Julian Beaumont kicked off the scoring 90 seconds into the first period when he deflected an Erik Atchison shot from the point beating Zacher to make it 1-0. Then, for the second game in a row, Joseph would score when he tucked home a rebound off a Joe Blackley shot from the point on the power play knotting the score at 1-1.
Before the conclusion of the first frame, the Bobcats surged ahead with a 2-1 lead when Beaumont scored his second goal of the game by seizing on a rebound from a Brandon Reller wrist shot.
The scoring momentum persisted into the second period, as Bismarck extended their lead to 3-1 with a power play goal from Chmelevski just 1:42 into the period. Under a minute later, John Emmons notched his fourth of the season, with Chase LaPinta and Longhi providing the helpers.
At the 12:19 mark, Justin Dauphinais evened the score at 3-3 by pouncing on a rebound from a LaPinta shot taken below the hash marks on Bobcats goalie Linards Lipskis. Two minutes later, during a power play opportunity, LaPinta capitalized again to give Minot a 4-3 lead, with assists from Longhi and Knox. This assist brought Longhi’s season total to 38, tying former Tauro and current Los Angeles King Blake Lizotte for the most assists by a Minot player in a single season.
The Longhi and LaPinta show would continue into the final twenty minutes of regulation, with Longhi scoring a goal and assisting on another, while LaPinta notched an empty netter. The Bobcats would tally one more goal with Vertti Jantunen scoring, but it wasn’t enough as the Tauros held on to a 6-4 victory and a weekend series split with their in-state rival.
Saturday’s game was marked by several significant milestones for the Tauros. Longhi set two records during the game, including the all-time single-season assist record with 39 and the single-season point record with 56 points. In addition, Joe Westlund played his 100th career game for the Tauros. The team’s 6-4 victory over the Bobcats marked the first time in their 12-year history that they beat their in-state rival eight times in a season.
Next up for the Tauros is a trip to Aberdeen to take on the Wings. Then the Tauros return to Minot to host the North Iowa Bulls on March 10th and 11th. On the 11th, the Tauros will be hosting the Farmers Union Insurance Food Drive, the first 1,000 fans who bring three or more food items to donate will receive a Farmers Union/Tauros jersey.