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Minotauros drop fourth straight, lose 3-1 to Austin

The Minot Minotauros dropped their fourth straight game Friday night, falling to the Austin Bruins 3-1 Friday night at Riverside Arena.

Friday night’s contest represented the second of three consecutive games for the Minotauros, following Minot’s tough-luck shootout loss Thursday night, and the first of a two-game set against the Bruins that will conclude the season series.

In six previous meetings with their last-place division rival this season, Minot has earned the victory five times. The Minotauros outscored Austin 19-11 en route to building a five-game win streak against the Bruins, but fell in their last matchup by a 4-2 final score April 17.

Carter Clafton earned the start in net for Minot for that April 17 game, and got the nod from head coach Shane Wagner Friday night as well. In ten previous appearances this season, the Minotauros’ backup netminder has recorded a .910 save percentage while allowing just under three goals per game. Friday night’s tilt was his fourth game against Austin overall this season as well, as the Grand Rapids, Minnesota native had allowed 10 goals in his last three opportunities against the Bruins.

Minot was opposed by Hudson Hodges between the Austin pipes, appearing in his 23rd game of the season and brining an .896 save percentage into Friday’s game. The Minotauros had seen Hodges just twice this season before Friday, having potted six total goals against the 6’2″ goaltender.

Austin grabbed the momentum in the offensive zone immediately following the opening puck drop and dominated Minot for much of the first period. The Bruins registered the game’s first eight shots, and did not allow the Minotauros a shot on net until the nine-minute mark of the opening period.

To make matters even tougher for Clafton, Minot was called for three penalties in the opening 20 minutes, but the goalie stood tall in his crease and turned aside each of the nine shots he faced. Hodges saw minimal Minot scoring opportunities, and saved all four of Minot’s shots to help keep the contest scoreless entering the first intermission.

Minot responded well in the second period, not allowing Austin nearly as many chances in the offensive zone through the middle frame’s first half. The Bruins did eventually crack the scoreboard first, recording two goals in the span of 59 seconds.

The first was scored by Carson Riddle, his 13th of the season, when he wristed the puck past Clafton after fanning on his first shot attempt from the right of the crease. Reginald Millette recorded Austin’s second score off a re-direct from a teammate in front of the crease, and on only three second-period shots, the Bruins had tallied two goals.

Austin would record only five total shots in the second frame in stark contrast to Minot’s 13, but Hodges remained impenetrable to lead Austin into the final period with a 2-0 lead.

The Bruins tallied a third score while on the penalty kill in the third period when Millette scored his second goal of the game, and his second shorthanded goal of the season, four minutes and 39 seconds into the game.

Minot got one back a tick under 15 minutes into the final period, when Max Bogdanovich, as he was falling face-first onto the ice, flicked a bouncing puck over an equally sprawled-out Hodges. The goal was his third of the season and second in three games, and Mason Campbell and Robert Kincaid provided the assists on the score.

Minot was able to muster little else the remainder of the game, and fell to the Bruins by a 3-1 final score despite outshooting Austin 32-22. The Minotauros’ record dropped to 22-22-5-2, but the team retained its grasp on third place in the NAHL’s Central Division.

Now mired in a four-game losing streak, the Minotauros will attempt to rebound Saturday night during the season’s final game against Austin. Puck drop is pegged for 7:05 p.m.

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