Posted by: Feldman
Good afternoon from casa de Feldy. I meant to have this done last night, but kids have a way of pushing my work timeline back. At least I'm hitting "publish" on this post a good 3 1/2 hours before puck drop. That feels like an accomplishment!
I'll be SpamTown-bound in less than two hours to watch Game 1 of what should be a hard-fought and entertaining NAHL Central Division Finals playoff series.
The Minot Minotauros (40-17-6) and Austin Bruins (41-11-11) are pretty much mirror images. Great coaching staffs on both sides. Balanced, deep lineups on both sides. Both teams like to play a physical, gritty style of hockey. As Bs forward Luke Dietsch put it to me a few days ago, the defensemen in this series will have fun standing out at the point and bombing away, then it's up to the forwards out front to win some battles and get some greasy goals.
Before we get too far into the series, here a few links to stories to check out when you have some time:
* Bruins coaches could be in their final run with the team (we'll get more into this shortly)
* Series preview: Bruins ready for all-out battle against Minot
MINOT DAILY NEWS
* Veteran coaches have been key to Tauros' success
Also, for Minot's perspective on the series, follow the Minot Daily News' Tauros beat writer Joe Mellenbruch at @Mellenbruch_MDN
As far as what's happening with the Bruins coaches, let's keep this short, because it's time to focus on a huge series for the Bs and Tauros. Many things have been reported in the past few days. All we can do as reporters is report what's been told to us on the record. That said, some things have been put out there that aren't accurate.
I'll stand by what was written in the story linked above and the couple of tweets that I put out there on Wednesday.
Here's what I'd say: Go back and read the initial tweets put out by Andy Johnson, a USHL and NAHL scout who, until recently was also the main University of WIsconsin writer/reporter for Bucky's 5th Quarter, a website dedicated to Badgers athletics. Andy knows his stuff and he takes a lot of pride in being correct. The only thing I have been told is that Brookings' Kyle Grabowski has not yet been offered the coaching job, though he did interview for it.
I can't get Andy's initial tweets to embed, so here are links to them:
1. The initial tweet that got the ball rolling
2. The follow-up tweet
3. First time Grabowski's name was brought into this
I'll add this: I've never met or communicated with Kyle Grabowski and didn't intend for anything I've written to reflect negatively upon him. He, or whoever ends up being the next coach of the Bruins, has a tough act to follow. With as competitive as the NAHL has become, you can't just throw a team on the ice and expect to win. You have to be willing to work, or at least be on call, 24/7, 365. To win, you have to turn over rocks that other scouts don't even know are there. I'll have a story next week in the P-B, leading into Games 3 and 4 of the Minot-Austin series, addressing just how hard it is to win in the NAHL these days.
Let's move on to some hockey, eh?
NAHL CENTRAL DIVISION FINAL SERIES
AUSTIN BRUINS vs. MINOT MINOTAUROS
Game 1: 7:05 p.m. tonight, at Austin
Game 2: 7:05 p.m. Saturday, at Austin
Game 3: 7:35 p.m. May 1, at Minot
* Game 4: 7:35 p.m., May 2, at Minot
* Game 5: 7:05 p.m., May 4, at Austin
* -- if necessary
Records: Minot (37-17-6 reg. season, 2nd in Central, 40-17-6 overall); Austin (38-11-11, Division champs, 41-11-11 overall)
Path to the Division Finals: (2) Minot swept (3) Bismarck, 3-0; (1) Austin swept (4) Aberdeen, 3-0.
Head coaches: Minot, Marty Murray (3rd season, 92-86-13 overall); Austin, Chris Tok (5th season, 198-104-29 overall)
Tauros leading scorers (reg ssn/playoffs): F Blake Lizotte (14-38--52/0-3--3); F Christian Mohs (18-33--51/1-1--2); F Johnny Walker (20-22--42/1-1--2); D Jon Lizotte (10-24--34/0-1--1); F Nick Monfils (15-16--31/3-0--3).
Tauros goalies (reg ssn/playoffs): Atte Tolvanen (26-13-6, 1.94 GAA, .922 save pct. / 3-0, 1.33, .937)
Bruins leading scorers (reg ssn/playoffs): F Trevor Boyd (26-24--50/1-3--4); F Alex Pettersson (11-32--43/0-3--3); F Nico Sturm (11-30--41/4-0--4); F Tony Uglem (22-17--39/1-2--3); F Luke Dietsch (9-28--37/2-1--3); D Ian Scheid (12-23--35/2-0--2).
Bruins goalies: Jake Kielly (20-5-6, 2.12 GAA, .906 save pct. / 2-0, 1.50, .927); Evan Smith (12-1-2, 1.73, .923 / 1-0, 5.00, .800).
TALE OF THE TAPE
Records (reg ssn/playoffs): Minot (37-17-6 / 3-0-0); Austin (38-11-11 / 3-0-0)
Head-to-head (points earned): Minot 4-0-0 (8); Austin 0-1-3 (3).
Offense: Minot 3.07 goals per game; Austin 3.50 goals per game
Defense: Minot 2.28 goals allowed per game; Austin 2.27 goals allowed per game
Power play (NAHL rank): Aberdeen 15.0 pct. (15); Austin 14.2 pct. (19).
Penalty kill (NAHL rank): Minot 87.02 pct. (4); Austin 90.18 pct. (1).
Goaltending (save pct.): Minot .909; Austin .907.
Former Mankato West defenseman Max Mettler is in his first season with Minot. He has 3-9--12 in 49 games this season. He has no points in the playoffs, but has a plus-4 plus/minus ratio. ... Tauros goalie Atte Tolvanen is a Northern Michigan commit and was named the Central Division MVP and Goalie of the Year earlier this week. ... The Tauros have two other players committed to D-1 schools. Leading scorer Blake Lizotte and top defenseman Jon Lizotte have committed to St. Cloud State. ... Amazingly, despite losing all but five players from last year's Robertson Cup finals team, the Bruins scored 21 more goals in the regular season this year (210) than last year (189) during the regular season. ... While Austin is a remarkable 24-3-3 since Jan. 1, Minot is 19-9-3 in that same span, including just 6-4-0 in its final 10 regular-season games. ... The Bruins have lost just once in regulation since Feb. 13. ... The Tauros are slightly better on the road (22-7-2) than at home (18-10-4) this season, including the playoffs. The Bruins are 22-4-6 at home and 19-7-5 on the road.