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EISEN: Minotauros return to being so-called underdogs in Central Cup final

This feels right.

With the Central Cup up for grabs, the Minot Minotauros and Aberdeen Wings will meet for a third straight postseason. The last two encounters came in the first round of the NAHL Playoffs with the No. 4-seeded team upending the Central Division regular season champions.

In 2017, Aberdeen eliminated Minot in four games with a double overtime goal by Carson Dimoff. Last season, Minot extracted revenge as goaltender Samu Lonkila posted a 3-0 shutout in enemy territory at the Odde Ice Center to win a do-or-die Game 5.

The grudge match awaits. This time the victor heads to Blaine, Minnesota, to challenge for the Robertson Cup.

While the Wings get to flaunt around the No. 1 seed, home ice advantage and an 8-3-1 record against Minot in the regular season, the No. 2-seeded Minotauros get to settle back into their comfort zone of being the underdogs. A label that truly means nothing, but something the Minotauros love to defy.

Being the alleged favorite in this series has been a curse in the past. Minot plans to keep it that way.

Hockey is a weird game where seeding can be thrown out of the window, and it doesn’t matter what the level of play is. The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs just eliminated the defending champions and all the regular season division winners in the first round this year. Or, staying right here in Minot, how about the No. 6-seeded Minot State men’s hockey team winning the 2019 ACHA Division I national championship?

Not to be forgotten and perhaps the most obvious, rewind a season and recall the miraculous run of the Minotauros from the last team to make the NAHL playoffs to coming a period short of winning the Robertson Cup.

Marketing this Minotauros’ postseason run as “#UnfinishedBusiness” taps into this team’s belief that they aren’t going to let anybody standing in their way and prevent them from lifting the Robertson Cup this time around. Even though there are only a handful of players left over from last year’s squad, this desire to make amends and complete the quest this season is formidable.

It’s a mindset that I believe is best explained by renowned poet Emily Dickinson, “Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne’er succeed. / To comprehend a nectar / Requires sorest need.”

The Minotauros are thirsty and want another chance in the championship game. Meanwhile, the Wings haven’t forgotten about last season either and what Minot did to eliminate them.

Dickinson continues: “Not one of all the purple Host / Who took the Flag today / Can tell the definition / So clear of victory.”

Both teams and fan bases know the feeling that comes with losing this series. Heartbreak has happened on both sides.

Dickinson concludes: “As he defeated – dying – / On whose forbidden ear / The distant strains of triumph / Burst agonized and clear!”

The third installment of this ongoing war gets underway tonight in Aberdeen. The Wings host Game 1 at 7:15 p.m. this evening and then Game 2 on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. as well.

The best-of-five game series shifts to Minot for Game 3 and Game 4 (if necessary) next weekend on May 3 and May 4. Puck drop for both games will be 7:35 p.m. at Maysa Arena.

If it comes down to another all-or-nothing Game 5, the Minotauros would march back to Aberdeen on May 6 for a decisive final standoff.

Disregard all preconceived notions of who has the upper hand. The time has come to crown the Kings of the Central Cup.

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

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