Minotauros fall 3-2 to Bulls

Ryan Ladika/MDN Minot forward Isaac Keller (23) skates the puck into the offensive zone during the first period of the Minotauros’ Friday night contest against North Iowa.

The Minot Minotauros were unable to build off the momentum of their home-opening victory last Saturday evening, as their first homestand of the season continued with a 3-2 defeat to the visiting North Iowa Bulls at Maysa Arena.

The defeat comes as the latest in an unsteady start to the 2021-22 season for the Minotauros. After beginning the season with only one win its first five games, a 3-2 victory over the Austin Bruins to close out their September slate seemed to kickstart good fortune for the club.

Minot split a home-and-home series with the Bismarck Bobcats Oct. 1-2 to compile wins in two of its last three, but its offense appeared a bit too late in the loss Friday evening.

Carter Clafton, appearing in his sixth game of the season, earned the start Friday riding the high of his 29-save performance, his highest total of the young campaign, against Bismarck in Minot’s third victory of the year.

The Bulls, entering the evening’s action with a share of first place at the start of their first year in the Central Division, ambushed the young netminder with three goals in the first period, courtesy of Byron Hartley, Michael Mesic and Max Scott.

Newly-minted head coach Cody Campbell had seen enough, and opted for rookie goaltender Zach Sandy to begin the second period. He saved each of the eight shots he faced in the second frame, but Minot’s offense was without life until the opening minutes of the final period.

As the fourth minute of the third stanza ticked off the clock, the Minotauros were able to keep the puck in the zone amidst a Bulls clearing attempt along the far boards.

A diving pass attempt by Minot forward Jaksen Panzer deflected the puck off a North Iowa skater, and it trickled to the waiting stick of fellow forward. David Nesburg.

The first-year Minotauro collected the puck in the low slot and unleashed a quick wrist shot that found its way past Bulls goalie Hunter Garvey to pull Minot’s deficit to 3-1. The score also marked the first goal of his NAHL career.

Minutes later, Nesburg potted his second goal of the period to trim the Bulls’ lead to one. Christian Kadolph skated the puck into the offensive zone along the near boards, and when he had reached the circle, he passed it off to Nesburg who had beaten a pair of defenders down the slot.

Nesburg reached his stick out as far as he could and executed a perfect chip-in over the left shoulder of Garvey, giving him his first career multi-goal game and pulling the Minotauros to within one goal at 3-2.

“I don’t think anything necessarily changed,” Campbell said postgame. “We played with a little bit more urgency. We had plenty of chances in the second period, we just couldn’t find the back of the net. David Nesburg consistently gets to the correct areas where you score goals from where it’s hard to play in, and he got rewarded for it. I don’t think anything changed necessarily from the second to the third, it was obviously a tale of two teams between the first period and second two with us.”

Minot could not net the equalizer in the final minutes despite a few more quality chances, and the Bulls prevailed by the 3-2 final score. Sandy went a perfect 18-for-18 in saves in relief of Clafton.

The Minotauros will wrap up the two-game set against North Iowa Saturday night at 7:35 p.m.


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