LaPinta makes history, lifts Tauros to huge win over Wings

Sean Williams/MDN Chase LaPinta (26) of the Minot Minotauros fires a shot on goal in a game at the Maya Arena earlier this season.

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Friday night featured the start of the biggest series on the remainder of the schedule for the Minot Minotauros (27-26-2), as they hit the road for a two-game showdown with the Aberdeen Wings (26-23-6).

Only four points separate the Minotauros and the Wings in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Central Division standings, with the Wings occupying fourth place for a current playoff spot.

A sweep is the most desirable outcome for the Minotauros, which would put the team in a good position moving forward while they continue trying to battle for a playoff spot. For the Tauros to achieve that goal, they will have to do it without two key players, Lawton Zacher and Nick O’Hanisain, as the pair did not make the trip to Aberdeen.

Ready to step up in the absence of his teammates was Chase LaPinta, who had a historic night by adding to his season scoring total with three goals. LaPinta’s surge lifted the Minotauros to a 5-1 win over the Wings.

It didn’t take long for Minot to get on the board, and they found a piece of history to go along with the early lead. Hunter Longhi sent a pass up the ice from the defensive zone to LaPinta, who broke free and buried it for his 31st goal of the season, giving Minot a 1-0 lead with just over a minute played.

With the goal by LaPinta being his 31st of the season, that gives LaPinta the single season record for most goals scored in Minotauros history. Longhi, who picked up the assist on the historic goal, already holds the record for the most assists in a single season as the pair continue rewriting history in the Magic City.

The goal by LaPinta was the lone score in the opening period. Despite the Wings going on the power play with 1:01 left, goaltender Noah Rupprecht held strong and stopped all six shots he faced in the opening period, helping Minot maintain their 1-0 lead heading into the second period.

Mirroring a similar start in period two, the Tauros got on the board quick again when Weston Knox found a lane through traffic and scored to double Minot’s lead to 2-0 with just 2:16 off the clock in the second frame.

They wouldn’t stop there, and LaPinta wouldn’t stop adding to his historic season, as he scored his 32nd of the year on a Blake Steenerson assist to give the Minotauros a 3-0 lead with 10:57 left in the second period.

Riding a 3-0 lead into the third period, the Tauros were rising to the occasion of being able to handle their business in a big game. Rupprecht was doing his part, too, by stopping all 19 shots he saw heading into the final period.

Avoiding a goose egg were the Wings, who got on the board with 11:46 left courtesy of a Roope Tuomiaksa goal, trimming their deficit to 3-1. After consecutive penalties by the Wings that gave the Tauros a 5-on-3 advantage, LaPinta made them pay by securing a hat trick on a power-play goal.

The third goal by LaPinta made it a 4-1 game which almost brought the game to its final score. With 4.2 seconds left, Kolby Amici scored a short-handed goal, bringing the game to its final of 5-1 in favor of Minot.

Not only did LaPinta set a new Minotauros franchise record on Friday night, but his three goals in the game and 33 goals on the season puts him as the NAHL league leader in goals scored this year.

Following the win, the Minotauros pick up a massive two points and they now sit as many points behind the Wings in the Central Division standings. The final game of the series will take place at 7:15 p.m. tonight. With a regulation sweep, the Minotauros can put themselves tied with the Wings at 58 points each.


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