A whole new season: Bruins are focused on the postseason push

Published 3:20 pm Monday, April 18, 2022

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The Austin Bruins are back in the hunt for the Robertson Cup, but they have a lot to learn before they can start making any plans on setting team history.

The Bruins don’t have a lot of postseason experience on their side as they prepare for the NAHL Central Division playoffs, which will begin in Riverside Arena at 7:05 p.m. Friday night. Austin is the No. 2 seed and has home-ice advantage in the best-of-five game series against the No. 3 seeded Aberdeen Wings.

Austin head coach Steve Howard said his young players must forget about what they did to get into the postseason for the first time in three years and they need to embrace the urgency of now.

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“You have to have a short memory. The regular season was an audition and we need to take each game at a time,” Howard said. “Those eight months of work are null and void. It’s all about survival now.”

Carson Riddle, who has 20 goals and 25 assists, is Austin’s second leading scorer this season, but he will bring a lot more to the table than playmaking this weekend and beyond. Riddle is one of the few Bruins who has NAHL playoff experience. He was on the team that played in the postseason three years ago.

“The game is going to be super tight, and it’s going to be fast. The refs will put away the whistles and let both teams play. It’s going to go to whoever has the most will and desire,” Riddle said. “It’s exciting. We’re going to keep this group together for a little while longer with a chance to do something special. Everybody’s matured and we’ve got younger guys playing some big minutes and doing big things for us.”

While Sutter Muzzatti has led Austin with 46 points in 50 games, the team has a lot of balance as the Bruins have 10 players with at least 20 points on the season. The Bruins have three rookies among their top-10 scorers and seven rookies in their top-14 scorers. Austin has played Aberdeen in six of its last seven games and both teams know exactly what they will be facing.

The Bruins’ defense will have to be strong for them to advance and that means that they will have to contain Aberdeen’s Cade Neilson. Neilson is a third year player who has 75 points (26 goals) in just 58 games and the Wings will try to get him near the net.

“There are no secrets between us and it’s all about executing. We have to shut down Neilson,” Howard said. “We have to take him out of the fold.”

The Bruins are hoping to play in front of a packed Riverside Arena this weekend as they put their season on the line.

“This place deserves to have home ice and we’re playing for the entire town,” Howard said. “We want to have it rocking in here this weekend. The crowd is our seventh player.”

If Austin gets past the Wings, it will play either St. Cloud, Bismarck or Minot in the NAHL Central Division Finals.


April 22 Aberdeen at Austin, 7:05 p.m.

April 23 Aberdeen at Austin, 7:05 p.m.

April 29 Austin at Aberdeen, 7:15 p.m.

April 30 Austin at Aberdeen, 7:15 p.m. (if necessary)

May 2 Aberdeen at Austin, 7:35 p.m. (if necessary)