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Minotauros edge Austin 3-1

Ryan Ladika/MDN Zach Sandy turned in an impressive night in goal for Minot, saving 35 of Austin’s 36 shots Friday night.

The Minot Minotauros made the trip east to Austin, Minnesota, Friday night, beginning a two-game set with the Bruins with a 3-1 victory in the first meeting between the teams since Minot swept Austin in a fiery two-game set in the Magic City last month.

The Minotauros and Bruins combined for 27 penalties in the opener of the last series alone Oct. 22, a contest Minot won by a 6-5 final score in the shootout after thrice overcoming two-goal deficits. The Minotauros would complete the sweep the next night with a much calmer 3-1 regulation win.

Head coach Cody Campbell gave the nod once again to Zach Sandy Friday night, as was the case in both of Minot’s previous two contests against Austin.

Making his 14th appearance of the season, the Fargo South-Shanley alum entered the evening with wins in six of his last eight contests and he had certainly earned them. Sandy notched average of just under 35 saves per game in that span, highlighted by a 42-save shutout in his last start against the St. Cloud Norsemen Nov. 13.

The first-year Minotauro David Nesburg put Minot on the board just before the halfway mark of the first period with aid from Connor McGrath and Sam Saccone. McGrath fought through a hit from a Bruins defender at his own blue line and slung a quick pass Saccone’s way, who in turn tapped the puck up the ice just far enough for Nesburg to retrieve it outside the defensive zone.

The forward handled the rest, skating down the far side before his shot from the circle sailed past Austin goaltender Klayton Knapp. The score was Nesburg’s fifth of the season, and McGrath and Saccone recorded their fifth and fourth assists of the season, respectively.

Following a perfect 13-save frame by Sandy on the other end, forward Tom Fridén ignited the chance that led to the Minotauros’ second goal early in the middle frame. Fridén flipped a pass behind his back to Saccone who gained possession while facing the far wall away from Knapp.

Instead of righting himself, Saccone simply let loose a backhanded shot all in one motion that squeaked through Knapp and across the goal line. The goal was the first of his Minotauros career, as was his multi-point night in his return to Minot after appearing in 10 games with the Springfield Jr. Blues this season. The defenseman had also appeared in one game for the Minotauros during the 2019-20 campaign.

Austin would halve Minot’s lead 11 minutes into the third frame, but Blake Arneson potted the first goal of his Minotauros career into the empty net to seal Minot’s 3-1 victory.

Sandy turned in another impressive outing in net as well, facing double-digit shots in each period and saving all but one of the Bruins’ 36 tries. The Minotauros will look to complete their second straight sweep of Austin Saturday night, with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.

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