The Minot Minotauros didn't have to wait long for their shot at revenge against Bismarck, who snapped the Tauros' six-game winning streak with a 3-0 shutout in the state capital Saturday.
Minot (12-13-1 overall) hosts a two-game series with the Bobcats starting at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Maysa Arena. The Tauros lead the season series 2-1.
Minot enters Friday's game having won seven of its last eight games and sitting in fourth place in the NAHL Central Division with 25 points. Minot trails Brookings (S.D.) by four points for third place and Bismarck by five points for second.
Tauros defenseman Brett Bukowski, left, passes the puck to teammate Denis Dalidovich past the outstretched stick of Coulee Region’s Zach Doerring during a game last month at Maysa Arena.
"It's a huge weekend for us," forward Jadin Martin said. "We can pull right behind (Bismarck) in the standings with a sweep and we expect to win coming into every game."
A major reason for the Tauros' recent success has been the play of goaltender Tyler Parks. In 18 games this season, he's 10-7 with a 2.88 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. The former Springfield Blues goaltender has started seven of the past eight games, sporting a 6-1 record, a 1.86 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
"Our guys are committed to playing better defensively, little things like blocking shots and alleviating turnovers we were making earlier," Tauros coach Marty Murray said. "All good teams start from the goaltending and ours is no different. Both Tyler (Parks) and Ryan (Ruck) have done great jobs and our guys have responded in front of them."
Parks has delivered in high-pressure situations, winning all five shootouts he's appeared in. He's made 10 consecutive saves, shutting out two straight opponents in the shootout period.
"When he first came back from the USHL, it took him a couple games to get into his rhythm, but since then he's been great," Murray said. "He's given us a chance to win every game he's played and stole some games for us that we shouldn't have come out on top. That's what good goaltending does."
Bismarck (14-11-2) has shown it can score on Parks, registering 10 goals in three games against the Tauros. Forward Patrick Moore is 12th in the league with 28 points on eight goals and 20 assists. Moore recorded two assists in the Bobcats' last game with Minot.
Right behind him is teammate Adam Knochenmus, who is tied for 13th in scoring with 12 goals and 15 assists. Knochenmus registered two goals against the Tauros on Friday.
Minot's received balanced scoring in each of its three games against the Bobcats, with 10 Tauros registering at least a point. Forwards Jake O'Borsky, Denis Dalidovich and Jadin Martin each tallied a goal and three assists in the two games in which Minot scored against the Bobcats. Dalidovich is currently playing overseas for France in the International Ice Hockey Federation U20 World Championships and won't be available for the Tauros this weekend.
"Bismarck is our biggest rival in the division and they'd probably say the same about us," Murray said. "It's good hockey when we get together. There's a lot of emotion and it usually makes for some pretty good games. Hopefully us being at home and having that home ice will put us over the top this weekend."
Said Martin: "It's a rivalry you can't really explain. It's one of those things where we don't like them and they don't like us. It's a mutual feeling."
Home ice has been kind to the Tauros this season, as they've won their last six games played inside Maysa Arena.
The teams close out the two-game series Saturday at 7:35 p.m. Saturday's contest features the second annual "Teddy Bear Toss" sponsored by Trinity Health. Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears to the game and throw them onto the ice after the Tauros' first goal. Every bear thrown will be donated to kids at Trinity Hospital.