by Ken Oda
Minot, ND - The Minotauros spent Thanksgiving week battling their instate rival the Bismarck Bobcats. The up and down week saw the Tauros give perhaps their most lackluster performance and their most inspired. In the end the Tauros finished the week with a 1-1-1 showing gaining three points in the standings and holding on to second place in the NAHL Central.
On Wednesday night the Tauros jumped out to an early lead when Jack Westlund finished a pass from Joseph Harguindeguy who was set up behind the Bismarck net just 4:44 into the contest. Midway through the period the Cats drew even but 12 minutes after his first goal Westlund redirected an Owen Baumgartner shot from the point to restore the Tauro lead. The assist would be Baumgartner's last as a Tauro as he was traded to the Wichita Falls Warriors before Friday's game. The Bobcats would get the only two goals of the second period from Quinn Rudrud and Will Magnuson to take a 3-2 edge heading into the final 20 minutes. While on the power play Damon Zimmer drew the Tauros even early in third with help from former Bobcat Carter Korpi but the Tauros could not find the game winner. Instead half way through the overtime period George Grannis scored on the rush to give the Bobcats a 4-3 win.
After taking Thanksgiving off the series shifted to Minot on Friday and the Tauros appeared to still be working off the tryptophan from Thursday's turkey. Three Tauro penalties in the first 10 minutes of the game helped the Cats jump out to a 1-0 lead. Things did not get much better for the Tauros once the calls went the other way as Wednesday night's hero Grannis added a shorthanded goal with just nine seconds left in the first to make it 2-0 Cats heading into the break. Austin Schwartz scored his second power play goal of the game early in the second to make it 3-0. Cole Stofflet got the Tauros on the board in the final minute of the second with his first junior goal to give the Tauros hope going into the third. However another power play goal for the Cats pushed it to 4-1 with just under five minutes to play putting the game out of reach, the Cats would tack on one more before the horn handing the Tauros a 5-1 loss in which they were outshot 40-17.
The Tauros came out with significantly more drive on Saturday night; Kyle Kukkonen scored his first goal as a Tauro on the games first shot on goal 3:42 in. The Tauros took an 8-4 shots on goal advantage by the middle of the period but late the Cats tilted the ice getting the final seven shots of the period including the game tying goal by Luke Gramer just eight seconds before the horn. A pair of quick strike goals for the Tauros in the middle of the second restored the Tauro lead, first Cade Stibbe cashed in a rebound at 8:17 and then Korpi added insurance 49 seconds later to make it 3-1 Tauros. Braden Costello would get the Cats back within one before the end of the second and another power play goal for Magnuson at 13:49 of the third had the game tied. Then with less than three minutes to play Tauro goalie Keenan Rancier was run over by a pair of Bobcats crashing the net, on the delayed penalty call the Tauros went streaking up the ice and Westlund found Korpi behind the defense for a breakaway that he converted into the game winner.
Next up the Tauros head into a different looking December than that was originally scheduled. The NAHL Midwest division has suspended play due to Covid related restrictions in Minnesota preventing most of their teams from playing. Similarly, the Minnesota Wilderness have elected to suspend play until the new year as a result of the restrictions. The Austin Bruins and St. Cloud Norsemen will avoid the restrictions by moving to North and South Dakota for the next three weeks to allow five of the six Central teams to keep playing. As a result instead of going to Minnesota next weekend to play the Kenai River Brown Bears the Tauros will host the Austin Bruins who will begin practicing in Minot on Tuesday. The games against Austin be on Friday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday at 7:00 p.m.; tickets have been added to season ticket holder accounts already and a small block are currently on sale through the "Tickets" tab atop this page or. Then on December 11th and 12th the Tauros will be hosting the St. Cloud Norsemen instead of the Aberdeen Wings. Tickets for the games originally against Aberdeen will still work on the appropriate dates despite listing the wrong opponent.
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North American Hockey League Stories from November 29, 2020
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