by Ken Oda
Minot, ND - The Minotauros took a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five Central Division Semi-Final against the Bismarck Bobcats with a pair of wins this weekend at the Maysa Arena. The victories showed why the three-way battle for home ice advantage (which carried into the season's final weekend) mattered so much as both the Bismarck Bobcats and Austin Bruins now trail in their respective playoff series 2-0 dropping the opening games on the road. The Tauros improved to 5-0 against the Bobcats in playoff games and now stand just one win away from advancing to the second round to face the winner of the Aberdeen/Austin series.
On Friday night (box score) the Tauros offense got going right from the hop. Joseph Harguindeguy redirect a Brennan Couet shot over John Roberts to give the Tauros a lead just 1:42 into the game. Blaine Warnert drew the Cats even five minutes later after a shot from the point was initially blocked, Warnert found the loose puck and beat the Tauros' Nicholas Grabko who appeared thrown off by the unusual timing of the play. Late in the period however Andrew Kangas restored the Tauro lead unassisted as he won a battle behind the Cats net, got to the front, and slid a shot past Roberts.
David Raisanen extended the lead in the middle of the third scoring on the doorstep with help from Wilmer Skoog and Didrik Henbrant. Matthew Gellerman then ended Roberts' night when fresh off the bench from a change no one picked him up and Cole O'Connell fed him a pass from behind the goalline that Gellerman one-timed into the net. Atticus Kelley came on in relief of Roberts and stopped all 18 shots he saw but Grabko was unbeatable the rest of the way as well and Raisanen added an empty netter late for the Tauros to win 5-1.
Saturday night the Tauros again struck first as Raisanen got his third of the playoffs 12:02 into the action. Taylor Lantz followed it up with a fantastic individual effort on the power play cutting through three Bobcats defenders before tucking the puck behind Roberts for a 2-0 Tauro lead just 1:27 later. On yet another Tauro power play however Bartek Bison scored shorthanded to get the Bobcats back in the game. Adam Stacho evened the game at two when he was left alone in front of Grabko but Henbrant and Kangas added power play goals 1:24 apart late in the period to push the Tauros back ahead by two entering the third. Stacho got his second of the night early in the period with the Bobcats on the power play but Kangas answered with his third of the playoffs to give the Tauros another five goal night and a 2-0 series lead.
The series now shifts down to the state capital where the Tauros went 1-5-0 this season. Game Three is Friday night at 7:15, Game Four if needed would be on Saturday night also at 7:15. If the series goes to a fifth game the teams would return to Minot on Monday, April 22nd for a series deciding game on the Pepsi Rink at Maysa Arena.
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