Minotauros rescue a rivalry win over Bismarck with late heroics

Minotauros rescue a rivalry win over Bismarck with late heroics

Alex Eisen/MDN Minotauros forward Keenan Lund (17) moves the puck up the ice with teammate Connor McGinnis (16) trailing the play Wednesday evening against the Bismarck Bobcats at Maysa Arena.

The NAHL playoffs don’t start until next month, but a rare Wednesday night game felt like a postseason affair.

The Minot Minotauros (31-19-1) managed to steal a 2-1 shootout victory over the Bismarck Bobcats (28-18-4) in front of a rather small, but boisterous crowd of 758 supporters at Maysa Arena.

Minot was held scoreless for over 56 minutes before finally coming to life. Better later than never, as the saying goes.

“We found a way to win,” Minotauros head coach Marty Murray said. “But, I thought Bismarck played a really strong road game. I’m not overly thrilled with our game tonight, but we found a way.”

Bismarck found the opening goal from a very unlikely source.

Alex Eisen/MDN Minotauros forward Taylor Lantz (right) and Bismarck Bobcats forward Alex Pollock (12) watch the puck slide away Wednesday evening in Minot.

George Grannis circled behind the Minotauros’ net and centered the puck out front to Carl Fish. The rookie defenseman playing in his 45th game this season snapped a one-timer for his first NAHL goal with 7:20 left in the first period.

Minotauros goaltender Nicholas Grabko kept the deficit at a single goal going into the first intermission after laying out for a diving poke check to stop a two-on-none breakaway.

Grabko continued to make a handful of acrobatic saves in a scoreless second period.

“That save (Grabko) made on the power play where he dove across — those go in 99.9 percent of the time — he made an unbelievable save,” Murray said. “We gave up some odd-man rushes and he just stood tall. We will take it. But, we can’t bank on playing like that and still getting two points.”

After a penalty-free first period, the middle frame featured 24 penalty minutes — seven minor calls (four Minot, three Bismarck) and a 10-minute misconduct for abuse of an official to Bismarck.

The Minotauros outshot Bismarck, 27-18, through the first 40 minutes, but didn’t have anything to show for it on the scoreboard.

“Bismarck did a really good job of backchecking,” Murray said. “We wanted to slow the game down and you can’t do that against a team that is playing with pace. Aberdeen plays the same way. Bismarck has bought into playing the game the right way and we got away with one tonight.”

Staring down at being shut out for a fourth time this season and for a third time at Maysa Arena, Andrew Kangas came to the rescue. With 3:21 remaining, Kangas found himself at the right place at the right time.

“We had an odd-man rush and Taylor (Lantz) made a nice play down to (Keenan) Lund,” Kangas said. “Lund was able to make a move past a defender and find me out front. I didn’t really have to do much work. A lot of credit to my linemates.”

Nothing could be settled in the five-minute 3-on-3 overtime.

Bismarck’s Adam Stacho beat Grabko five-hole in the first round of the shootout. Wilmer Skoog forced sudden death with a goal in the third round. After Ryan Taylor pegged the right post for the Bobcats in the fifth round, Didrik Henbrant sent the home supporters into a frenzy with his game-winning goal on the following attempt.

“I was just trying to find the blocker side and an open space,” Henbrant said. “Took the shot and it was an easy goal. A lot of relief (followed).”

Grabko finished with 29 saves and denied four shootout attempts. Minotauros outshot the Bobcats, 41-30.

The Minotauros will travel down to Bismarck on Saturday for the road leg of this two-game series. It will be the final regular season meeting between the two teams to conclude the Subway Cup rivalry.

Bismarck leads the season series 6-4-2. Neither team has won away from home.

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