On the Road Again
by Ken Oda
Austin, MN - The Tauros head outside of North Dakota for the first time since returning from Christmas break for a weekend set with the red-hot Austin Bruins. The Bruins have gone 8-0-2 in their last ten games to move ahead of the Tauros in the standings; the Tauros meanwhile are 4-4-2 over that same span. The result is chaotic race in the Central Division with third through fourth place shifting with each game. Bismarck moved back into second with 47 points after last night's win over St. Cloud; Austin as a result dropped back into third with 46 points. The Tauros sit in fourth with 43 points.
Both teams are 2-1-1 against each other this season with a regulation win and a shootout win in the head-to-head series. Nik Armstrong-Kingkade's four goals and six total points lead all scorers in the series, Dante Sheriff's six assists lead Austin. The Tauros offense ranks fourth in the league with 3.80 goals per game while the Bruins 3.20 sits at 14th in the league. Similarly, the teams sit 10 rankings apart on defense as well with the Tauros ranked 19th allowing 3.57 goals per game while the Bruins are ninth at 2.80. For the Bruins Ben Almquist has left the team for the University of Minnesota Duluth. He had three goals against the Tauros.
A.J. Ruskowski has been strong in relief of the injured Ben Garrity with a .927 SV% in three starts since Garrity went down. He will get a chance to avenge one of his worst starts of the season which came against the Bruins in Austin right before the Christmas break allowing six goals on 16 shots. Garrity meanwhile hopes to return this weekend as well. He's played strongly against Austin this year with a .918 SV% and 2.57 GAA.
The Tauros have a chance to jump back into third place in the standings with a strong performance this weekend. Aside from jumping ahead of Austin with a sweep a good weekend could see the Tauros jump as many 12 points ahead of the MN Wilderness who are currently in fifth place in the Central; putting the Tauros comfortably in playoff position.
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