Haunting (and inspiring) history

Minotauros reflect on championship defeat, motivation for the new season

Alex Eisen/MDN Minotauros forward Austin Koss (18) watches on as the Shreveport Mudbugs celebrated after winning the NAHL Robertson Cup last season in Blaine, Minnesota.

Returning players for the Minot Minotauros sat hushed in a depressing locker room inside the Fogerty Ice Arena in Blaine, Minnesota, on May 14 following a 2-1 defeat to the Shreveport Mudbugs in the NAHL Robertson Cup Final.

That feeling of losing a championship didn’t go away overnight.

“It still stings right now,” forward Austin Koss said. “It’s always there, but at least we have another season to redeem ourselves.”

The Minotauros reported to preseason training camp this week and some of the lingering emotions of letting the Robertson Cup slip away are still present.

“Everyone wishes they could have that one game back and give it their all again,” forward Cole O’Connell said.

The lack of an NAHL championship banner hanging in the rafters at Maysa Arena won’t help matters, or maybe it just might? It can serve as an invisible reminder of what could have been and what the defending Central Cup champion Minotauros are still striving to achieve.

While the heartbreak of last season was a topic well discussed in detail on Wednesday, as the Minotauros completed their rounds of media interviews, the conversation always pivoted to the loss being a catalyst to have an even better season this year.

“Last season was a journey and super fun,” forward Fritz Belisle said. “I think we are going to be hungrier this year because of the ending from last year, after coming just short of winning the whole thing. I think this team can do it and it’s going to be a fun season.”

Koss added: “If anything, it’s going to give us more fire in our game to get back to the same place and win it next time.”

Those 2017-18 Minotauros got so close to achieving the so-called impossible, now this group believes that anything is truly possible. Nothing is out of the realm of possibilities.

Even the newcomers, some of which were in an entirely different country a few months ago, have been debriefed on the tragic conclusion to what was a memorable season for the Tauros. These new characters hope the sequel to last year’s storybook season will have a happy ending this time around.

“Of course they have told us, the new ones, how it went last year,” said Swedish rookie Wilmer Skoog, who was drafted in the 10th round of the NAHL Draft. “We want to do better than last year.”

Skoog has been in Minot for less than a week. Along with getting a brief Minotauros’ history lesson, he is also getting accustomed to his new surroundings.

“I like it. I got a good billet family, nice teammates and I like the arena,” Skoog said. “I have been to Walmart for the first time and I bought some stuff, but haven’t really explored yet.”

Another Scandinavian newcomer from Sweden, Didrik Henbrant, also joins the Minotauros after being a first round (No. 9 overall) draft pick in the 2018 NAHL Draft.

“It’s a much smaller rink here,” Henbrant said. “So, you won’t have as much time with the puck. You always have a guy on you.”

Making adjustments is what the preseason is all about. Whether that’s making a mental adjustment to put last season into perspective or going to the extreme of having to move countries, or it could be a physical adjustment to adapt to a different style of play.

Whatever the case may be, everyone in the organization is glad hockey season is back. And, for better or worse, last season remains imbedded into these Minotauros.

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