Bruins take aim at Minotauros in playoff opener

Published 6:44pm Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Austin Bruins have proven they can win the NAHL Central Division and they’ve proven they are very tough to beat in Riverside Arena, but they haven’t proven that they can play their best in the playoffs this season.

Not yet anyway.

Austin head coach Chris Tok said he wasn’t sure of how his team was prepared for the playoffs until the last two weekends, when the Bruins won three out of four games against Bismarck, which has ended Austin’s season two straight years in the NAHL Central Division finals. The Bruins needed those last two wins against the Bobcats to get the top seed in the NAHL Central playoffs and they were rewarded with a home ice advantage in a five-game series against No. 4 Minot. That series begins this Friday and Saturday with games against the Minotauros at 7:05 p.m. in Riverside Arena.

“Two weeks ago I wasn’t sure we were ready [for the playoffs],” Tok said. “The last four games against Bismarck helped a lot. The intensity of all of those games were extremely high and the hatred between the teams was high. That’s what you’re going to see in the playoffs.”

On paper, the Bruins (40-19-1 overall) are a pretty heavy favorite over Minot. Austin won six of the eight regular season match ups between the teams, the Bruins are a league’s best 26-4 at home and Minot (24-33-3 overall) is 11-18-1 on the road. Minot’s 51 points this season are the lowest of any team that qualified for the playoffs.

But all it takes is the Minotauros to win one of two this weekend and they have home ice on their side. Tok is expecting for Minot’s defense to back up and take away all of Austin’s shooting angles.

“They like to block shots and pack it in. It will be difficult to generate scoring opportunities,” Tok said. “We’ve got to be patient and not cheat to try and create scoring chances. We don’t want to give away any breakaways.”

Austin has fed of its home crowd this season and Tok is hoping that this weekend will be no different.

“We’ve been good at home, but we’re not going to be able to just show up and do it,” Tok said. “The fans of Austin have been awesome and our guys like playing in front of them. The guys will have fun and that will help us play our game.”

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