Bruins have four more games to make a push for the postseason
With just two weeks remaining in a highly competitive playoff chase, the Austin Bruins are going to put it all on the line and they’ll certainly need a boost from their veterans as they look to earn a trip to the postseason.
The last four games of the season — which are all against the St. Cloud Norsemen — will be crucial for the Bruins, who trail the Minnesota Wilderness by two points for the final playoff spot in the NAHL Central Division. Austin holds a one point lead against the last place Norsemen, who also have a shot at the postseason.
The Bruins’ backs are against the wall, but they have plenty of experience on their side as they have four key players finishing out their junior hockey careers this year. Garrett Dahm and Reggie Millette both joined the Bruins in head coach Steve Howard’s first season four years ago and they both have USHL experience. Connor Mylymok has been with the Bruins for three years and Cullen Rush made the jump from the Rochester Grizzlies to be a two-year contributor for Austin.
“It’s the last hurrah for junior hockey for some of them. They got their season cut last year and they were shorted out of that playoff season, now it’s the last kick of the can for some of these guys and we’ve got our backs against the wall,” Howard said. “We’ve got a big task ahead of us, but the best things in life aren’t given to you. You’ve got to go out and earn them. This could be really memorable for the guys if we’re able to make a run.”
Millette said that he’s had to embrace the grind as a junior hockey player and he’s not afraid of the battles that lie ahead against the Norsemen. He’s excited to put it all on the line.
“We made the playoffs easily in my first couple of years, but this year is different and we’re fighting to get in,” Millette said. “I think it’s more enjoyable to be fighting at the end and not have it be a cake walk.”
The seemingly endless practices and long seasons can catch up to many junior hockey players, but the veteran Bruins have learned to show up ready to work every day. Dahm has enjoyed his time with Austin, even though it started off a little rough.
“My first year was always tough and so was the start of the second year. I think that’s how it is for a lot of the younger guys and I came into the league at 17 years old,” Dahm said. “You’ve just gotta stay on it every day in practice and keep working.”
Rush is one of the few Tier 3 players to make the jump to Tier 2 junior hockey and he’s glad that he got that chance. He’s learned to compete with and against some of the best young hockey players in the nation.
“It was a shock at first, because you’re playing with such skilled players,” Rush said. “The practices are a little overwhelming at first, but once you get used to it, it’s pretty surreal to know you’re playing with and against guys who are high level Division I and possibly pros some day.”
As the schedule runs out, the Bruins have found their push as they’ve played with more energy and focus in recent weeks. They’ll really have to go hard over the next two weeks if they want to pull it off. Mylymok said he’s learned a lot on and off the ice with the Bruins and now he’s hoping to learn how to come from behind for a playoff berth.
“We’re almost in a deadlock with St. Cloud and the Wilderness and we’re treating it like it’s a playoff series. Our goal is to win all four games,” Mylymok said. “We’ve always had a good group of guys here and I look forward to coming to the rink every day. I’m happy to have had the privilege to play here.”
Get To Know
Garrett Dahm is in his fourth season with the Bruins and he has played in 152 career junior hockey games, amassing 28 goals and 47 assists. Dahm has committed to Division I Mercyhurst University.
Reggie Millette is in his fourth season with the Bruins and he has logged 122 career junior hockey games, compiling 17 goals and 19 assists. Millette has committed to DI American International College.
Connor Mylymok is a three-year Bruin who has played in 118 career junior games with 20 goals and 25 assists. He has committed to Division University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Cullen Rush is a two-year Bruin and one year Rochester Grizzly who has played 108 career junior games. He has 24 assists and two goals. Rush is hoping to play Division III hockey next season.
The Bruins will host the Norsemen at 7:05 p.m. Friday and at 7 p.m. on May 15. Riverside Arena can now hold up to 500 fans per game and the team is hoping to have a loud atmosphere for these final games.
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