Bruins: All eyes on the playoffs

Published 10:34 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Austin goalie Tyler Bruggeman takes shots from head coach Chris Tok Tuesday during practice at Riverside Arena. The Bruins open the playoffs against Alexandria This Friday and Saturday in Alexandria. -- Eric Johnson/

Bruins goalie Tyler Bruggeman has been here before.

He’s played in the USHL finals when he played for the Fargo Force, and he played in the Robertson Cup finals when he played for the NAHL’s St. Louis Bandits.

The Bruins' Trevor Waldoch runs through drills with the team Tuesday afternoon during practice as Austin prepares for its first-round playoff match-up with Alexandria starting this weekend. -- Eric Johnson/

Now he will lead the Bruins into their first playoff series in franchise history when they open a five-game series in Alexandria, Minn. this Friday and Saturday with 7:30 p.m. start times.

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“I want to get back there and win the thing,” said Bruggeman, who is 27-10 overall with a save-percentage of 92.2 this season.

Bruggeman is all too familiar with Austin’s first round opponent as the teams met 12 times this season. The Blizzard won seven of the matchups, but each team scored 37 goals in those meetings and the squads have played just once in the past two months.

“They’re a fast team and they like to put bodies in my grill and they try to get in the goalies’ head,” Bruggeman said. “It’s my job to block it out and stop the puck.”

As the Bruins (36-18-6 overall) prepare for Alexandria (40-15-5 overall), they’re also looking forward to getting one of their big play-makers back in Christian Folin, a 6-3, 215-pound defenseman who has 31 points this season and has already signed a partial athletic scholarship to play at Division University of Massachusets-Lowell next season.

Folin has missed the past few weeks of action with an injury, but he is hoping to get back on the ice as soon as possible.

“I’m real excited and this has been a goal for us for a long time,” Folin said of playing in the playoffs. “I’ve been waiting for this the whole year. I should be ready to go, but it just sucks to be standing on the side and not be able to do much (right now).”

Austin head coach Chris Tok said the Bruins’ strategy is pretty clear as they face off with Alexandria — he wants the team to get off to a quick start.

Members of the Austin Bruins hockey team gather around head coach Chris Tok during practice Tuesday afternoon at Riverside Arena. The Bruins open the playoffs against Alexandria This Friday and Saturday in Alexandria. -- Eric Johnson/

“We’re not going to say we’re going to go in and steal one,” Tok said. “We’re going to go in and take the first one and we’re going to lace them up and try to win the second one. If we tell them we’re going to steal one and we win the first one, they’ll think their job is done.”

Tok also said playoff games often come down to simple hustle. The team that tries to put together combination goals aren’t always the ones with success in the postseason and sometimes players just have to get near the net and get physical.

“It’s not a secret,” Tok said. “The guys that are willing to pay the price in front of the net are going to score goals and guys that are willing to pay the price and block shots in front of your own net will keep them out of the net.”

While some of the Bruins are probably starting to feel the adrenaline for their first postseason action, Bruggeman is quick to point out that it’s best not to get overexcited when playing a playoff series, as opposed to a one-and-done situation.

“It’s a hockey game and that’s what it is,” Bruggeman said. “If you make more out of it, you’re going to beat yourself. The secret to the playoffs is competing and attacking rebounds and that’s been successful for us this year.”

Besides playing for his team’s survival, Bruggeman, who is a Mankato West grad, also has a little personal interest in the upcoming postseason. He has yet to sign with a college and whatever hockey he has left is the last chance he’ll have to make an impression.

But he’s not going to let that get in his head.

“I’m not really thinking too much about that right now,” said Bruggeman. “If we make a good run in the playoffs and I play well, that will take care of itself. I’m focused on the task at hand.”

The winner of the Alexandria-Austin series will take on the winner of the Bismarck-Aberdeen series with a trip to the Robertson Cup on the line.


Friday — Austin at Alexandria, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday — Austin at Alexandria, 7:30 p.m.

April 13 — Alexandria at Austin, 7:05 p.m.

April 14 — Alexandria at Austin, 7:05 p.m.

April 15 — Austin at Alexandria, 7 p.m.