by Ken Oda
The Tauros look to move closer to locking up the second spot in the Central Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs while the Aberdeen Wings have already clinched the division title. The Tauros also need a weekend sweep of the Wings to ensure a winning record against every team in the division, the Tauros are currently 4-5-1 against the Wings but have a winning record against their other four Central rivals. Last weekend the Tauros went 1-0-1 against the Wings at the Maysa Arena that saw three players earn suspensions, Taylor Lantz of the Tauros and Tim Makowski and Brad Belisle of the Wings. With the teams meeting for their third and fourth games in a row in an already heated rivalry more fireworks should be expected.
The Tauros continue to push for home ice in the first round holding a two point lead on the Austin Bruins and a three point lead on the Bismarck Bobcats. Both the Bruins and the Cats have an extra game on the schedule which they will make up on Thursday night. The two teams chasing the Tauros have four games remaining against each other while the Tauros finish against the Wilderness and Blizzard whom are both already eliminated from playoff contention.
The Tauros took three of four points from the Wings last weekend, but after allowing a game tying goal with a minute to play followed by the game winner in overtime on Saturday night it still felt like a squandered opportunity. Including playoffs the Tauros are 6-5-1 against the Wings in Aberdeen over the last two seasons, the only road team with a winning mark in the Odde. Former Blizzard Vince Marino has led his new team against his former instate rival with six goals against the Wings this season. Justin Kelley, Keenan Lund, and Nick Strom have all recorded a team best six helpers in the season series; and Captain Fritz Belisle has added three goals.
Aberdeen will hang another Central Division regular season championship banner from their rafters next season but are unlikely to chase down the Johnstown Tomahawks for the league's best regular season record trailing by 11 points with seven games to play. With little to gain themselves the Wings none the less will still be playing meaningful games over the next two weekends. After hosting the Tauros this weekend the Wings will be in position to help Minot playing in Bismarck on Thursday before returning to the Odde to host the Austin Bruins on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Wings have the second ranked offense (4.19 g/gm) and best defense (2.13 ga/gm) in the NAHL this season. Joe Strada has been a Tauro killer with 12 points (5g 7a) in 10 games this season he leads the Wings and now has nine goals and 22 total points in 27 career games against the Tauros. John Sladic has also posted 12 points against the Tauros on four goals and eight helpers. In net Matt Vernon has played every game against the Tauros this year allowing 23 goals over 10 meetings thus far on a .932 SV%.
Watch and Listen
Both Friday and Saturday night's games are on all three outlets of the Minotauros Network, AM 1390 KRRZ, HockeyTV.com, and the Listen Live tab atop this page. The Farmers Union Pregame Show starts at 7:00 p.m. for 7:15 p.m. puck drops both nights.
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