Typically, in hockey, a two-goal lead is considered "the most dangerous lead in hockey."
For the Minot Minotauros, it was a three-goal lead that proved too difficult to maintain in their 4-3 loss to the Brookings Blizzard on Friday at Maysa Arena.
Brookings' Wyatt Schmidt tallied the game-winning goal with 54 seconds left, rocketing a shot that hit off the post before finding the back of the net past the stick-side of Tauros goaltender Brandon Wildung. It was the Blizzard's first lead of the contest.
Minot forward Jake Howie skates the puck into the offensive zone past Brookings’ Joe Nathe (2) and Will Graber on Friday at Maysa Arena. The Tauros allowed four unanswered goals in the final two periods.
Brookings, which is playing for pride after being eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, scored four unanswered goals over the final two periods.
"We started cheating a little bit," Minot coach Marty Murray said. "We had numerous chances to put the game away. ... We just got what we deserved."
After squandering a couple early scoring chances, the Tauros (22-32-3) broke through at 11:50 of the first period. Michael Louria collected a rebound to the left of Brookings goaltender Garrett Forrest and buried the puck into the open net.
Louria's night was just beginning as he opened the second period with two goals in the first 1:37 to tally the natural hat trick. Minot's Jake McCann set up Louria's second goal, finding the Tauros forward all alone in the slot. Louria blasted a slap shot past Forrest's stick-side.
"He's a guy that capitalizes on his chances, but we had a lot of grade-A scoring chances that we didn't bear down on," Murray said. "You let a team hang around, and, credit to them, they battled. They're not playing for anything but pride right now, and they wanted it more in the end."
Brookings defenseman Brandon Parker lost an edge while skating behind his own net with the puck, which resulted in Minot's 2-0 lead.
Louria netted his third 49 seconds later to stake the Tauros to a 3-0 advantage early in the second period. Troy Degler recorded his second assist of the game on Louria's hat-trick goal.
Forrest, making his first career start in the North American Hockey League, kept the puck in front of him after that and finished with 20 saves.
Brookings (17-33-7) responded with three unanswered goals of its own to tie the contest heading into the second intermission. Michele Marchetti started the comeback, netting Brookings' first goal 15 seconds after falling into a three-goal hole.
Nick DeCenzo cut Minot's lead to 3-2 before Jared Goudreau tied the game on the power play with 3:46 left in the second period. Brookings held a 10-8 advantage in shots during the middle frame.
"In a situation like this where we're not going to make the playoffs, it's difficult to feel that jam," Brookings coach Cory Laylin said. "They had their backs against the wall and they stood up for each other and I was proud of them."
The Tauros had two separate chances to break the tie with the 5-on-3 power play. Minot had 1:46 with the two-man advantage but didn't generate many quality scoring opportunities. Louria hit the pipe on the first 5-on-3, but that was Minot's best scoring chance.
"You get back-to-back 5-on-3s and we have to get it done," Murray said. "We didn't really generate a whole lot. We missed the net, and it starts in practice. Bearing down and buckling down there makes it easier in games if you make that translation into practice."
The Tauros finished 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Blizzard scored twice on their three opportunities.
The teams play tonight at 7:35 at Maysa Arena.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State men's club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.