Tauros claim 5-2 revenge win over Bismarck in Milewski debut

James Jackson/MDN Minot Minotauros goalie Cam Milewski made his team debut in a Black Friday contest against in-state and NAHL Central Division rival Bismarck Bobcats.

While turkey-fueled gift seekers were taking to their favorite retail stores in search of holiday deals, the Minot Minotauros hit the ice at the Maysa Arena shopping for another win in their Black Friday matchup against the rival Bismarck Bobcats.

Currently sitting in second place in the Central Division of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), the Tauros (12-8-1-1) find themselves six points behind the division-leading Austin Bruins, who have padded their spot atop the standings by putting together a 9-0-1 record over their past ten contests.

Heading to the Maysa Arena for the third time this season, the fifth-place Bismarck Bobcats (9-9-2-1) aimed to extend their active two-game winning streak on Friday to close the five-point gap between themselves and the Tauros in the division hierarchy.

Attending the game with revenge on their minds after their team’s 8-1 loss on the road to the Bobcats on Wednesday, over 2,000 Tauros fans stuffed the Maysa Arena like a Thanksgiving turkey on Pack the Pepsi Night, leading to the Minotauros selling standing-room tickets online for the first time in the franchise’s history.

Even at the opening puck drop, fans continued to stream into the packed arena and were immediately greeted by the smell of buttered popcorn, the clanging of cowbells, and the frenetic action taking place on the ice between the in-state rivals.

Physical play was prevalent from the onset, arguably driven in part by the Wednesday’s 8-1 lopsided final score between the teams at the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck.

Despite coming up empty on a power play just 3:51 into play, the Tauros’ relentless attack on Bismarck’s net allowed them to draw first blood at the 12:31 mark on a goal by left winger Hunter Longhi courtesy of an assist by right winger David Nesburg to put Minot up 1-0.

The Tauros goal not only added extra energy to the raucous home crowd, but increased Longhi’s goal total on the season to eight while also matching the team’s entire scoring output in their last game against the Bobcats.

Although being outshot by a margin of 16-to-7 to end first-period play, the Tauros made the most of their opportunities to hold the advantage heading into the second period.

Ratcheting up the offensive pressure to kick off the next 20 minutes of play, the Bobcats set up camp on the Tauros side of the ice and managed a number of shots with promise, yet debuting Minot goalie Cam Milewski held steadfast in the line of fire.

Ultimately, penalties defined much of the second period, with both teams capitalizing on man-advantage opportunities in the process.

Near the 14-minute mark, the Tauros would expand their lead to two goals when left defenseman Jan-Kasper Bergman converted an assist by right winger Chase LaPinta and Nesburg into a Minot power play score for a 2-0 lead.

However, two minutes later, Bobcats center Patrick Johnson narrowed the lead to 2-1 after a beautiful series of pinpoint passes from right winger Adam Pietila and center Vertti Jantunen concluded with a beautiful Bismarck shot and score.

Keeping the pattern of power play goals alive and well heading into the final 10 minutes of the second period, the Tauros cashed in an insurance goal at the 8:16 mark when right winger Trevor Stachowiak converted a clip of passes from left winger Max Martin and right defenseman Ben Johnson into Minot’s second power play score of the period and a 3-1 advantage.

With the contest still tight heading into the final 20 minutes of competition, it took only 30 seconds to make things significantly more interesting as Bismarck’s Johnson netted his second power play goal of the game on an assist from left defenseman Michael Neumeier to draw the Bobcats to within one score of the Tauros at 3-2.

As both teams took turns visiting each other’s zones, the Tauros would enter the final ten minutes of gameplay with a 7-to-2 advantage in shots over the visiting Bobcats in the third period.

Preserving the Minot lead with just six minutes left in regulation, left defenseman Colby Woogk made arguably the most pivotal play of the contest by stopping an open-net opportunity for the Bobcats, thwarting Bismarck’s best game-tying chance of the final 20 minutes to that point.

Sealing things in the 19th minute of play, center Justin Dauphinais and LaPinta put the Tauros ahead for good on empty net goals to bring the final score to 5-2 and wrapping up a revenge-game win for Minot.

The Tauros will hit the road to face-off against the Austin Bruins on Dec. 2 at Riverside Arena at 7:05 p.m.


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