It was a back-and-forth affair all night long inside the Maysa Arena in Minot Saturday night, but the Minotauros got the first and last goals to take the 4-3 win over the Aberdeen Wings.
The Wings had a strong push at the end of regulation, but fell just short as time expired, leading to a weekend split in a very tight Central Division.
Minot got on the board first when Huston Karpman got a backhand goal at the 1:20 mark in the first period to open the scoring. But just 14 seconds after the face-off at center ice, Landry Schmuck tied the game up at one apiece when he found some open ice and fired a wrist shot from the bottom of the circle into the upper right-hand corner. The unassisted goal was his ninth on the season.
The Wings thought they had a goal just over six minutes into the period but the referee waived it off. Minot got the go-ahead later in the period when Wings goaltender Anton Castro lost sight of the puck and Connor McGrath snuck it in from behind and around the Wings’ net at the 9:34 mark. But Will Gilson got the equalizer at the 16:53 mark — with the Wings on the power play, Gilson fired the puck from the high slot straight through traffic and into the back of the net. It was his sixth goal on the year, while Hugo Gustafsson got his eighth assist and Kyle Gaffney notched his 25th.
Minot edged Aberdeen out in shots on goal 11-10 but the Wings took advantage of their first power play opportunity of the night and the teams skated into the first break tied at two.
The Wings took a penalty in the first minute of the second period and the Minotauros were able to find their first power play goal of the weekend from Braydon Beahm. Now leading 3-2, Minot successfully killed off two penalties before Aberdeen found their third goal of the game at the 17:30 mark in the second. That’s when Ronan Walsh skated in on a three-on-two Wings attack and fired from between the circles to tie the game at three apiece. Walsh got his 18th goal of the season, while Cade Neilson grabbed his 33rd assist on the year and Kevin MacKay got his ninth.
This time, however, it was Minot who responded quickly with a tight-angled shot just 31 seconds later. And it was Minot who once again edged out the Wings in shots on goal 12-11 and skated into the final break with the one-point cushion.
The Wings were able to outshoot the Minotauros in the third period and saw two more power play opportunities, including one with 31 seconds remaining on the clock — and with Castro on the bench and a six-on-four advantage, they couldn’t capitalize with the extra attacker and their late push fell short.
“Without getting the win tonight, I can’t say I’m happy with it,” he said of his squad’s overall response. “I felt the kids pushed back and stayed in the fight through the weekend, but we had chances to score but didn’t convert enough of those chances tonight.”
Overall, the teams were even in shots on goal, each taking 30. Castro denied 26 shots while Minot’s Lassi Lehti stopped 27 for the win. The Wings went 1-5 on the power play while killing one of two penalties themselves.
After the weekend split, the Wings remain in third place in the Central Division but are once again in a three-way tie with 43 total league points — North Iowa and Minot are in fourth and fifth, respectively, with the same overall point total. And it’s North Iowa that the Wings will host this weekend at the Odde, followed by two consecutive weekends against the Minotauros to finish the month.
Austin sits at the top of the division with 49 points, while St. Cloud follows with 47. Bismarck rounds out the division with 33 points. With 20 games or less remaining in the regular season for five of the six teams (St. Cloud has 23), both the coaching staff and the locker room know how important wins will be down the final third of the season, and his message to his team was clear.
“Simply put, that we know we can play with them and have an opportunity to develop some room in the standings when we convert our chances,” he said.
The Wings will look to deny North Iowa of any league points this Friday and Saturday at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen. Door open at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11-12 with the puck dropping at 7:15 p.m. both nights. Fans can purchase tickets ahead of the game online at tickets.AberdeenWings.com or at the door. $10 general admission tickets can also be purchased at any C-Express location in Aberdeen, with additional purchase.
Fan are encouraged to swing out on Saturday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. for a chance to try sled hockey at the Holum Expo Building, then will be treated to a sled hockey demonstration during the first intermission and a scrimmage following Saturday’s game.