Members of the Bruins mob CJ Smith after scoring the winning goal of the shootout with Brookings in February at Riverside Arena.
Members of the Bruins mob CJ Smith after scoring the winning goal of the shootout with Brookings in February at Riverside Arena.

Bruins eye a big finish

Published 2:31am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Austin Bruins would love to play for the Robertson Cup this season, but before they can even think about that, they’ll have to defeat the feisty Minot Minotauros.

Minot (26-30-4 overall), which is in its second year as a franchise, won five of its 10 meetings with Austin (42-11-7 overall) this season. The Bruins will host the first two games of a best-of-five game series in Riverside Arena April 12 and April 13 at 7:05 p.m.

Austin head coach Chris Tok said the Bruins will have to work to get their offense going in the series.

“They’re not a team that gives you ten or twelve scoring chances a night,” he said. “We’ve got to manufacture some ugly scoring chances from some bad angles. Their defensemen are really big and we’ve got to get guys in front of the net.”

Austin forward Brandon Wahlin, who finished tied for second in the NAHL with 69 points, has already signed with Division I University of Massachusetts and he’s the Bruins’ all-time leading scorer. But he’d like to win a few more games before he leaves Austin.

“It hasn’t really hit me yet. We’ve really got to win it this year and I think we’ve got a good shot to win it. This is our chance to get there,” Wahlin said. “Minot has a lot of good guys, but not one guy in particular. They come hard, they always play the body and we’ve got to be ready to take that physical play and shove it right back at them.”

The Bruins finished with the second most wins in the NAHL and are 22-4-4 at home. Minot is 11-18-1 on the road.

Still, Tok isn’t about to take anything for granted as he prepares his team.

“It’s a clean slate. There’s four teams in and we’ve got to play the games. What happened in the regular season doesn’t matter. We’ve got to play hockey,” Tok said. “They had a pretty good stretch where they were pretty unbeatable in the middle of the season. We can’t take them lightly and we know we’ve had to earn our victories over them.”

Austin struggled a bit down the stretch as it lost three of its last eight. It did win both games against Minot March 15 and March 16 and the Bruins had the top seed locked up with three weeks to go.

Tok is hoping a packed Riverside Arena and the intensity of the playoffs will get his team to play it’s best.

“We know what we’re capable of and a lot of it is belief,” Tok said. “We’re good enough and as long as we show up and do it, we’ll be fine.”

Austin's Nick Lehr jumps on a lose puck during the first period earlier this year against Minot at Riverside Arena.
Austin’s Nick Lehr jumps on a lose puck during the first period earlier this year against Minot at Riverside Arena.

Austin Bruins 2012-13 season highlights

The Austin Bruins made their third season in Austin their best one to date. The team finished with its best record (42-11-7 overall) in franchise history, securing home ice advantage throughout the NAHL Central Division playoffs.
Now the Bruins are hoping to keep their run going as they prepare for a playoffs series with Minot.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights of Austin’s past season.

Austin 5, Johnstown 4, OT, Sept. 14
Riley Colvard missed the majority of his first season with a broken neck and he wasn’t sure he would ever play hockey again. After a strong offseason of rehab Colvard came out motivated and he scored two goals — including the game-winner with 1:01 left in overtime in the win over Johnstown.

Austin 4, Aberdeen 3, Oct. 26
The Bruins trailed 3-1 going into the third period when they put on a scoring flurry that saw John Simonson, Cody Dixon and Jay Dickman all find the back of the net to get the win.
Austin’s Nick Lehr had 42 saves and he stopped all 17 shots he saw in the third period.

Bruins 3, Brookings 2, shootout, Dec. 8
Brookings took all of the momentum when it scored two goals in the last two minutes of regulation to force overtime and the Blizzard even scored the first goal of the shootout.
But Austin goalie Nick Lehr stopped the next four shooters and Brandon Wahlin and Drew Anderson scored for the Bruins to get the win.

Bruins 2, Brookings 1, shootout, Feb. 2
It wasn’t looking good for the Austin Bruins, but they weren’t about to lose on ‘Paint the Rink Pink Night’ for the first time in franchise history.
Austin trailed 2-0 in a game-deciding shootout when head coach Chris Tok put goalie Jason Pawloski into the game. Pawloski hadn’t played all night and his grandmother had passed away just two days earlier, but he made three big saves to keep Austin in it, and CJ Smith, Brandon Wahlin and CJ Smith all scored consecutive shootout goals to win the game.

Bruins 8, Bismarck 3, Feb. 23
The Bruins started about as fast as possible as they scored three goals in the first three and a half minutes and led 5-0 after the first period. Seven different Bruins scored in the win, which showed how dominant the team can be.


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