Tauros lose 6-3, now 1 game from playoff elimination

AUSTIN, Minn. – This is an all-too-familiar position for the Minot Minotauros.

Their season is on the line at Riverside Arena tonight against the team that has knocked them out of the North American Hockey League playoffs each of the past three years.

The Tauros are on the brink of elimination after Austin topped them 6-3 in Game 3 of a best-of-5 first-round series on Friday.

“We played a pretty solid game,” Tauros coach Marty Murray said. “They just capitalized on some plays and their big players showed up and made plays.

“We’re a good team but Austin is, too. It’ll be a battle and we’ll see if we have that fight in our game.”

A Minot win tonight would force a decisive Game 5 at Maysa Arena on Monday.

“We have to bring our best effort (tonight),” Murray said. “We know Austin doesn’t want to get on a bus for 12 hours on Sunday.”

Austin’s leading scorer, Gilbert Gabor, scored twice and goalie Kris Carlson kept the Bruins in the game by making 29 saves, as Minot doubled Austin’s shot total, 32-16.

“He’s a battler,” Bruins captain Jade Miller said of Carlson. “Anytime you see someone put their best effort out there every night for the team, it makes you want to play harder for him.”

Carlson allowed three goals, but none that he really had a chance to see or save. He came up huge in the third period, when Minot outshot the Bruins 13-4.

“We were getting some Grade-A chances,” Murray said. “We just have to be determined to get into the blue paint and battle. We have to find a way to battle through those tough situations. That’s what playoff hockey is about.”

Austin took a 3-2 lead into the third period. It took advantage of a power play early in the third as Jacob Paganelli hit Miller with a perfect feed for a backdoor one-timer that proved to be the game winner.

“Our chemistry has been great on the power play,” Miller said. “It’s been that same unit together all year and we work on it four or five times a week. We’ve been pretty consistent all year and we know special teams are huge at playoff time.”

After a James LaDouce power play goal pulled Minot within 4-3 with 2:58 to go, Luke Forfar and Travis Kothenbeutel scored empty-net goals to seal it.

“It’s never easy to end a team’s season,” Miller said. “We have to get rested up and be ready for their best effort tomorrow.”

Chase Springman gave the Tauros w 2-1 lead just 2:46 into the second, but Austin Rueschhoff beat Minot goalie Gunner Rivers four minutes later with a wrist shot high to the glove side to tie the score.

Just 1:21 after that, Bruins defenseman Griff Slightam hit Gabor on a long stretch pass up the wall in front of the benches. That sent Gabor in alone. He skated in front of the crease and slipped a backhand past Rivers for his second goal of the game and a 3-2 lead.

The Minotauros controlled the first period, outshooting the Bruins 11-2, but Austin goalie Kris Carlson was sharp and kept the score 1-1 after one.

Nate Pionk opened the scoring for the Tauros with a quick wrist shot that beat Carlson at the 10:14 mark.

It was the only shot to get past Carlson in the period, as he stopped 10 shots, including close-range chances by Tyler Jeanson and Max Reisinger on a Tauros power play.

Austin evened the score late in the period, just 32 seconds after the Bruins’ Paul O’Connor and Minot’s Jeanson each were called for double minors for roughing. Justin Misiak fed Gabor at the 15:12 mark for his first playoff goal as a Bruin and third point of the series.