Out of the Wilderness
Tauros snap losing skid with a third- period rally
The mini mid-season slump for the Minot Minotauros was halted with a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Wilderness Saturday evening at Maysa Arena.
Minot (19-16-1) had lost four straight games and seven out of its last eight before topping the Wilderness (20-14-1). The Minotauros rallied Saturday with five goals in the third period, including a hat trick in 11 minutes by Keenan Lund.
“We were on a four-game losing streak, but I thought we were playing some decent hockey,” Minotauros head coach Marty Murray said. “We were outchancing and outshooting teams heavily. And it seemed like any mistake we made was going in our net. That’s life in the hockey world, and we were a little more desperate tonight.”
A back-and-forth, balanced start to the contest shifted in the Wilderness’ favor when Minotauros defenseman Lincoln Erne was sent off to the penalty box for slashing.
Minnesota capitalized on the man advantage. Dylan Johnson shot the puck off a Minotauros defender from an awkward angle from the side of the net to score the opening goal.
However, a little over two minutes later, Andrew Kangas provided the equalizer. Skating through traffic in front of the net, Kangas found the puck and an opening from close range to beat goaltender Ryan Fanti for the quick response.
Kangas’ 11th goal of the season had the Central Division affair tied at 1-1 going into the first intermission. Lund and Connor McGinnis were credited with the assists.
Eight minutes into the second period, the Wilderness got a favorable bounce off an offensive zone faceoff win to regain the lead. The puck was fired in from point-blank range by Peter Grytdahl. Minotauros goaltender Ben Garrity had no time to even react.
“There were times when we should have passed the puck and didn’t, and times where we shouldn’t have passed the puck and did,” Murray said about the first two periods. “It was the decisions we made and I thought we were a lot sharper and made better puck decisions in the third period.”
Stringing crisp passes together in the third period, the Minotauros mounted their comeback.
The first highlight reel goal came on the power play three minutes into the period. Lund and Kangas connected to find Wilmer Skoog waiting at the back post for an easy tap-in.
After collecting two assists, Lund got on the finishing end of another beautifully worked play to score the go-ahead goal. Captain Fritz Belisle and Vince Marino freed up Lund with a pair of perfect passes.
“We have been playing solid for a while now,” Lund said. “So, it was no surprise when we started to make good plays. Some reason, in that third period, they started to go in.”
And, as if that wasn’t good enough, the Minotauros completed the trifecta of well worked goals in the third period. Lund tapped in his second goal of the game on a heads up backdoor pass by Kangas.
“On my goals, it wasn’t me at all,” Lund said. “It was my teammates that set me up. It feels amazing personally, but it’s more about the team.”
Minnesota made the final four minutes a little more interesting with a power play goal by Jack Johnson to get within a goal, 4-3.
Then, with 1:29 remaining, Minotauros defenseman Levi Kleiboer was sent to the penalty box for hooking.
The tense situation was defused by Lund, who cleared the puck from his own defensive zone to score his hat trick goal.
Belisle added a second empty net, short-handed goal with 46 seconds left to make the final score implode out to 6-3.
Lund finished with three goals and three assists. McGinnis also picked up three assists.
“It was time for us to get a win and I’m feeling like we are going to get on a four-game winning streak now,” Lund said.
The Minotauros welcome the Central Division second place Austin Bruins to Maysa Arena next weekend on Friday and Saturday.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.