by Ken Oda
Friday @ Minnesota Wilderness, 7:05 p.m., Northwoods Credit Union Arena Cloquet, MN.
Saturday @ Minnesota Wilderness, 7:30 p.m., Duluth Heritage Center, Duluth, MN
*The Farmer's Union Insurance Pregame Show starts 15 minutes before puck drop on HockeyTV.com and AM 1390 KRRZ.
Cloquet, MN - The Minotauros will get their first look at the 2018-2019 Minnesota Wilderness who despite being a division rival have not yet appeared on the Minotauros' schedule. The Tauros sit in fourth place in the Central, tied with third place Bismarck whom has played two fewer games, just two points ahead of the Wilderness in the battle for the final two playoff spots in the Central Division. Having not seen the Wilderness yet this year the Tauros will see them 10 times over the next three months including four games in a row starting this weekend. Both teams come into the weekend having lost on New Years Eve to their in-state rivals Bismarck and Austin.
The Tauros showed signs of breaking out of the 10 game slump they were on entering the Christmas break. During the slump the Tauros were scoring just 2.3 goals per game while allowing 3.8; in the three games against Bismarck after the break the Tauros both scored and allowed nine goals for an average of 3.0 an improvement in both though still not a return to their pre-slump averages of 3.3 goals for an 2.2 goals against.
Tauros leading scorer Keenan Lund had just one goal and one assist during the Tauros slump and matched those totals last weekend against Bismarck. Taylor Lantz pulled even with Lund thanks to three goals and an assist last weekend. Vince Marino continues to produce since being acquired from Brookings with a goal and three assists in four games as a Tauro.
The Wilderness come in with the fifth ranked offense in the NAHL scoring 3.29 goals per game (the Tauros are 6th averaging 3.28). The difference between the offenses comes from the power play, while the Tauros score predominantly at even strength, the Wilderness have had 31 of their 102 goals, or one per game, come on the power play.
Aaron Myers leads the Wilderness with 29 points (12g 17a) and defenseman Ondrej Trejbal is second on the team with 28 (9g 19a). The Wilderness top five scorers all have at least 26 points ranking them ahead of the top Tauros. Despite that the Tauros have almost an identical offensive output indicating greater balance throughout the lineup. In goal Ryan Fanti has taken two-thirds of the starts posting 12-8-1 record on a 2.30 GAA and .929 SV%. Kaleb Johnson has gone 5-5-0 in the backup role on a 2.96 GAA and .901 SV%.
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