Junior Hockey | Bruins This Week
Posted by: Feldman
The Austin Bruins extended their lead in the NAHL Central Division last weekend, sweeping a pair of one-goal games at last-place Coulee Region. The Bruins now lead Brookings by three points in the standings and have a chance to extend that lead this weekend.
Brookings and Austin play host to the same teams -- Minot plays at Austin at 7:05 p.m. tonight and at Brookings on Saturday. Bismarck plays at Brookings tonight and at Austin on Saturday night.
Let's take a look at this weekend's games and some other topics:
* Following this weekend's games, Austin plays a rare Monday night game at Coulee Region (Onalaska, Wis.) before a big early-season series against Brookings next Friday and Saturday at Riverside Arena.
* Bruins coach Chris Tok said Rochester John Marshall grad Zach Johnson has earned his way back into the lineup. Johnson, a hard-nosed center, has played in the Bruins' past three games and has two goals in that span.
"His skating has been there," Tok said. "We can notice when he skates hard and is decisive, he's hungry and gets on pucks. When he's not hungry, he's not moving. We've told the guys 'we know you're going to make some mistakes, but you just have to go out and play hard and if you're going to make mistakes, do it aggressively.'"
* Tok said the Bruins are quite banged up and "we'll be lucky if we can put 20 guys on the ice this weekend." It's been awhile since Austin's full roster has been 100 percent healthy, but it hasn't been in jeopardy of not putting a full lineup on the ice this season. Not having to get on a bus and travel could be a bit of a benefit for the Bruins this weekend.
* Here's my story from Thursday's Austin P-B, looking at each Bruins position group at the quarter-way mark of the season. Tok also gives his thoughts on each position group. ... Some comments from Tok that didn't make this week's article:
* Tonight's game is the first time this year that Austin and Minot will meet. The Minotauros (4-11-1) had a tough start to the season, but have been playing better over the past couple weeks and are just one point out of fourth place. The Tauros took a two-week trip to the West Coast, where they split two-game series with both Wenatchee and Fresno. Minot is led in scoring by forward Travis Maxwell (5-8--13), who was traded to Minot about three weeks into the season. The Tauros also added goalie Tyler Parks after the NAHL Showcase in September. Parks is 3-5-0 in nine starts with an .893 save percentage.
"They added (Parks) after the Showcase and he's a big kid, so we have to get bodies in front of him so he has trouble seeing the puck. They're getting better and we better be ready to play when the puck drops (tonight)."
* Here's a weekend preview from the Minotauros website.
* Bismarck visits Austin on Saturday for the fourth meeting of the season between the teams that finished first and second in the Central Division last year. Austin is 2-0-1 against the Bobcats, including a 4-2 victory at Riverside Arena on Oct. 13.
"They always play hard and they play well on the road," Tok said of the Bobcats.
* Bismarck recently made a trade with Wenatchee for defenseman Chris Driver. Driver had seven assists in 13 games and a plus-3 plus/minus rating with the Wild.