The Boys Are Back
by Ken Oda
Minot, ND - The Minotauros and the Bismarck Bobcats last met 212 days ago on what turned out to be the final game of the 2019-2020 NAHL as Covid-19 shutdown the world. Now as the NAHL kicks off the 2020-2021 season they meet again, on the same ice, inside the Pepsi Rink at Maysa Arena for the 10th home opener in Tauros history.
The Tauros return 10 players from last year's squad as they look to extend the second longest active playoff streak in the NAHL to eight seasons. Despite a large group of returners, the Tauros do have to replace their top nine scorers; Jack Westlund's 26 points (8g 18a) is the most of any returning Tauro and was good for 10th on last year's squad. Third-year forward Joseph Harguindeguy was next on the team with 20 points (9g 11a) followed by defenseman Owen Baumgartner's 18 points (4g 14a). Of course the biggest change for the Tauros is the man standing behind the players on the bench; Shane Wagner steps up to replace the departed Marty Murray who had been the Tauros Head Coach for eight and a half seasons. Aside from the returning Tauros the Tauros added two veteran NAHLers via the dispersal draft who should both play big roles for the team; forward Kaiden Scott posted nine goals and six assists last season for the Topeka Pilots while defenseman Jared Lambright posted two goals and 13 assists and is already committed to NCAA DI St. Lawrence.
Wagner and his Tauros jump right into the deep end of the Central Division pool with the rival Bismarck Bobcats providing the opposition for the Tauros home opener. The Cats return three of their top eight scorers in Lars Christian Rodne, George Grannis, and Tim Piechowski. Aside from some of their top scorers the Cats return 11 total players from last year's team that was in second place in the Central at the shutdown.
While this weekend's game will be the first that count of the 2020-2021 season the two teams have met twice already. They split a pair of games last weekend in the War in Watford, a preseason exhibition in Watford City, ND. Westlund had goals in both games for the Tauros who won 5-4 on Friday before losing 4-1 on Saturday.
Minotauros Attendance and Covid-19
While the Covid-19 pandemic forced the end of last season and delayed the start of this one, we are hopeful that it will have no deeper impact on the upcoming schedule. The safety and health of our fans is our utmost priority and we will continue to strive to do our best to find the appropriate balance to serve and entertain our fans throughout the upcoming season. The Minotauros will be respecting all federal, state, and local guidance and following any relevant laws and/or ordinances as they apply. At this time, we continue to take our guidance from local authorities who allow for full attendance at the Maysa Arena and optional mask wearing at our games. Additionally the Minotauros will be enacting additional optional safeguards to protect our fans including the steps below.
Optional "Socially Distant Seating" is already implemented and available in sections 115 and 116, the Minotauros may increase or decrease this based on demand from the community and input from health officials.
To help combat the spread of Covid, hand sanitizing stations will be made available throughout the arena.
The Minotauros have upgraded to touchless payment systems where possible to help minimize spread.
Unfortunately, in conjunction with North American Hockey League return to play protocols, some events that we cherish, such as Skate with the Tauros will have to be postponed for the time being. The Tauros players and staff remain optimistic that they will return in the not too distant future as we all strive to find a new, safe, normal.
• Discuss this story on the North American Hockey League message board...
North American Hockey League Stories from October 9, 2020
- Norsemen Fall 4-1 to Wings in Season Opener - St. Cloud Norsemen
- Jacks Travel for Weekend Exhibition Action - Odessa Jackalopes
- Bismarck Bobcats Season Opener Tonight - Bismarck Bobcats
- The Boys Are Back - Minot Minotauros
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.