On thin ice

Aberdeen takes Game 3, up 2-1 in series on Tauros

Steve Silseth/Special to MDN Minotauros Fritz Belisle (25) defends Aberdeen defenseman Logan Britt (7) in Game 3 of the first round of the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs Friday evening at Maysa Arena in Minot.

An ineffective power play and a goal that wasn’t a goal has the Minot Minotauros a loss away from cleaning out the locker room and calling it a season.

The Aberdeen Wings soared into Maysa Arena Friday evening and took down the Minotauros, 4-1, to seize a 2-1 series lead in the best of five series in the first round of the NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs.

“These are tight games in the playoffs,” Minotauros coach Marty Murray said. “They got two power play goals and we didn’t. Those are obviously a difference maker. We had a good start and then had a couple mental lapses.”

After killing off an early tripping penalty two minutes into the game, Minotauros captain Alex Adams led by example by knocking in the first goal at the top of the crease.

His second goal of the series was assisted by his top linemates Grant Loven and Miroslav Mucha.

Steve Silseth/Special to MDN Minotauros forward Grant Loven (9) takes a shot on Aberdeen goaltender Matt Vernon (30) in the first period of Game 3 at Maysa Arena.

Aberdeen’s Joey Strada countered quickly with the equalizer a minute and 16 seconds later. Evan Rochowiak found Strada, who went bar down off the crossbar.

The Wings committed a trio of penalties in the final eight minutes of the first period and even gave the Tauros a 5-on-3 advantage for 24 seconds.

But, Minot’s power play woes in the series continued. They went 0-for-5 on Friday and are 0-for-12 in the series.

Aberdeen showed the Minotauros how to get it done in the second period. With three seconds left on a penalty to Jake Rosenbaum for holding and the Minotauros struggling to clear the puck, John Sladic buried a rebound off Minot goaltender Samu Lonkila.

“We got to protect the net better,” Murray said. “Our ‘D’ kind of looked like a windshield wiper out there, just swinging our sticks around.”

Seven minutes later, the energetic Maysa Arena crowd was celebrating what appeared to be the game-tying goal.

Until it wasn’t.

With the puck in a scrum in front of the net, the referee lost sight of it and blew his whistle. Moments later the puck broke free and was rifled into a wide-open net.

All Murray could do on the Tauros’ bench was throw his arms into the air in disbelief.

“The referee blows a quick whistle when it could have been 2-2,” Murray said. “Then, he ejects a guy for a butt-end (penalty) and then he changes his mind mid call. He booted him out twice. Then, the third goal they scored, he got the wrong guy. The guy that scored it should have had a two (minute minor) and a 10 (minute major) with (Connor) McGinnis. They were tangled up in front.

“Excuses are excuses, but it’s frustrating when it’s big parts of the game.”

Aberdeen took the 2-1 lead to the third period, narrowly outshooting the Tauros 20-18.

The third period featured a melee after a Tauros player tumbled into the net over top of Wings goaltender Matt Vernon. That eventually sent five players to the penalty box.

Also, Adams decked Colton Fletcher, but was called for a contact to the head penalty. And that turned into the Wings’ third goal with 3:21 remaining. Nathan Burke tipped a shot from the blue line by Logan Britt.

Jonathan Bendorf added an empty netter to make it 4-1.

Must-win Game 4 for the Tauros is at 7:35 p.m. tonight at Maysa Arena.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.