-Jeremy Pike for minotauroshockey.com Minot, ND –
The two games between the Minot Minotauros and the St Cloud Norsemen this weekend were almost mirror images, at least scoreline-wise. The Norsemen rescued a weekend split with a 3-1 victory Saturday night after the Tauros opened the weekend with a 4-1 win Friday night.
St Cloud shelled the Tauros goal in the first period Saturday, outshooting the hosts 16-6 and beating goalie Lawton Zacher twice. The first came less than four minutes after the opening faceoff as the Tauros turned the puck over at their own blue line and Anthony Ruklic was able to capitalize. The second came with just over a minute remaining in the period. Zacher made two highlight-reel saves but Norsemen defenseman Broton Sabo cruised through the slot and banged home the rebound.
Tauros captain Trevor Stachowiak gave the home crowd something to cheer just over a minute into the second period, though. Blake Steenerson forced a turnover in the St Cloud zone and found Brayden Fischer. Fischer paused with the puck before finding Stax just above the goal line almost in the corner. From a near-impossible angle, Stax launched a shot on goal that somehow found the back of the net for his 12th of the season.
It looked like the Tauros had a prime chance to tie the game when they won a power play just over a minute later. The puck did end up in the back of the St Cloud net a second time but was immediately waved off. The replace on HockeyTV did show that the puck was batted in by a high stick by a Tauros player.
To make matters worse for the home team, it was only moments later when Blake Perbix knocked home St Cloud’s third of the game after a goal-mouth scramble with Zacher diving to try to keep the puck out of the net.
That failed power play was indicative of the Tauros’ offense while a man up all weekend long. They failed to capitalize on any of their eight power plays, including a partial 5-on-3 in the second period Saturday night. That opportunity might have been the home team’s best chance to climb back into the game.
Unfortunately for the Tauros, not only were they unable to ever get back into the game on the scoreboard, Zacher had to leave the game in the second period as well. After his stellar performance in goal Friday night and making big saves despite surrendering three, any long-term injury would be disastrous for the Tauros.
Perhaps the bright spot that came from the goalie switch was the performance of Zacher’s replacement, Noah Rupprecht. He finished the night with 12 saves on 12 shots faced to keep the Tauros within range of St Cloud.
Despite the Tauros outshooting St Cloud 12-5 in the third, they were never able to get a second or third goal past Will Ingemann.
Friday night was a different story despite a rough start. The Tauros surrendered a shorthanded goal to open the scoring just over 11 minutes into the game, further underscoring their struggles with the man advantage. However, Kolby Amici was able to tie the game less than a minute later with the puck bouncing around in front of the St Cloud net. It was his second of the season as a member of the Tauros and ninth overall. Nick O’Hanisain and Colby Joseph collected assists.
The first would end with the teams deadlocked and St Cloud with a slim 13-11 lead in shots.
It would take less than two minutes for the Tauros to take the lead, and fittingly it came shorthanded. The puck bounced loose at center ice and John Emmons pounced on it, outracing the St Cloud defenders and rifling it past goalie Ethan Dahlmeir. As rough as the Tauros power play was on the weekend, their penalty killers were stellar, killing all six of St Cloud’s power plays and scoring the shorthanded goal.
That would be the lone goal of the second period despite both teams putting double-digit shots on net, 14-10 in favor of the Tauros.
It only took just over three minutes into the third before the lamp would light again for the Tauros. With the puck deep in the St Cloud zone, Jack O’Hanisain won the puck and slid it back to the blue line for Colby Woogk. Woogk teed up a shot and Nick Sewecke, camped out in front of the net, tipped home the offering to make it 3-1 in favor of the Tauros, his fourth of the season.
Despite the Tauros taking an early 3-1 lead in the third, they actually outshot St Cloud 11-6 in the period. Chase LaPinta would cap off the scoring with just under a minute and a half to go. He pounced on a loose puck on the forecheck and fired home his 28th of the season into the empty net.
The Tauros, courtesy of the weekend split, find themselves still in fifth in the Central Division at 25-25-1-1 with 52 points and three points back of fourth-place Aberdeen Wings.
Next up the Minotauros hit the road on back-to-back weekends with a chance to pull themselves back into the playoff picture. Next weekend the Tauros are in North Iowa and then the weekend after the Tauros head to Aberdeen. The Farmers Union Pregame Show kicks off 15 minutes before puck drop for all road games on the Minotauros Network (HockeyTV, Mixlr, Facebook Live, and the Tauros Hockey Mobile App). After the two road weekends the Tauros return home for the last time in the regular season to host the Austin Bruin on April 7th and 8th on Fan Appreciation Weekend! Tickets for those games are available through the “Tickets” tab atop this page or by visiting tickets.minotauroshockey.com.