Reloading for another run

New-look Minotauros eager to begin season

Photo courtesy of Steve Silseth Minotauros forward Alex Adams (8) fights for position near the net during a junior league hockey game.

Minot Minotauros coach Marty Murray remembers the disappointment of last year’s North American Hockey League playoffs all too well.

The Tauros were coming off a Central Division championship and a 38-14-4 record, yet fell to Aberdeen three games to one in the first round of the playoffs.

“It stinks, no question about it,” Murray said. “Any time you don’t win that last game of the playoffs, it’s disappointing. Especially with the team we had last year, I think we had the ability to go a long way in the playoffs. But it’s a new season now and I’m looking forward to taking another crack at it with these new group of kids.”

There will be plenty of new faces making contributions for the 2017-2018 Tauros, as Minot returns only seven players from last year’s team.The Minotauros get their first chance to evaluate their players with an exhibition game at 7:15 p.m. Friday against Bismarck on the road. Minot begins the regular season Sept. 20 in the annual NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn., and will have to trim its roster down to 23 players by the home opener on Oct. 6.

“The turnaround from year-to-year in this league is usually always a big one,” Murray said. “I think last year we had unusually high numbers of returners. But we have a couple guys with some junior experience equivalent to ours. We also have some young guys that will come in and have an immediate impact on our team.”

Despite the roster turnover, Murray isn’t lowering his expectations.

“I think coming into this season we’ve established ourselves as a premiere organization in the league both on and off the ice,” Murray said. “We obviously want to maintain that. Obviously everything is a lot easier when you’re winning hockey games. The opportunity we provide for these kids is what it’s all about. We want to make sure that these guys know second place is not an option, we want to establish ourselves as a really good team early and keep that rolling.”

One of Minot’s top scoring options will be returning forward Alex Adams. Adams, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward, led the team in goals and finished third in total points last season with 29 goals and 19 assists.

Meanwhile, Minot hockey fans will see a familiar face on the Tauros’ back line in defenseman Colby Enns, a Minot native. Enns was a late addition to last year’s team, playing in the final 13 games of the regular season and scored two goals and racked up an assist in the process.

“I think that experience helped him a lot,” Murray said. “He came in last year and I think proved he could play at this level. He handled himself very well here. We’re looking forward to him taking some big strides and is one of our highest seniority guys as far as the back end goes. Those 13 games he played should help him in the comfort level this year for sure.”

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.