The Minot Minotauros have been just one point away from a playoff berth for the last week and will have to wait at least another day.
Austin forward A.J. Reid scored the eventual game-winning goal at nine minutes, two seconds of the third period as the Central Division champion Bruins defeated Minot 3-2 on Friday at Maysa Arena.
Reid's wrist shot over Minot goaltender Tyler Parks' glove-side shoulder denied the Tauros a chance to earn their first playoff appearance in the program's brief history in front of the hometown fans. With five games left in the regular season, the Tauros can clinch the division's final playoff spot with either an overtime loss or just one loss by Aberdeen.
Tauros goaltender Tyler Parks covers the puck following a shot by Austin’s Drew Anderson, center, in front of Minot’s Zack Holstrom during a game Friday at Maysa Arena.
"We've been trying to close it out for four games now and tonight I though we played a pretty good game," Tauros coach Marty Murray said. "I thought we missed some real big opportunities to score goals and we came up with nothing. It's frustrating when you put a good solid effort in and come up with nothing. That's hockey. That's life."
Austin took advantage of its first power-play opportunity of the night to grab the early lead. Twenty-eight seconds into a tripping penalty by Minot defenseman Jake Clifford, Austin forward Jake Dickman one-timed a shot past Parks.
Austin forward Brandon Wahlin set up the scoring play, finding Dickman with a pass from the far side faceoff circle. Dickman was left unattended and buried the power-play goal at 3:03 of the first period.
Forward Lucas Oliver tried to spark the Tauros midway through the opening period by starting a fight with Austin defenseman Kody Reuter along the Bruins' bench. The sparring match worked against Minot as Oliver was assessed a game misconduct for removing Reuter's helmet during the fight.
Oliver entered the game fifth in scoring for the Tauros, registering 24 points on 10 goals and 14 assists.
"He's a big part of our offense," Murray said. "We lose a guy and it's that much more demanding ice time for somebody else. It is what it is and we have to find a way to get a win."
Minot found its offense in the second period with Oliver out of the lineup, scoring twice for its first lead of the contest. Forward Cameron Rowat tied the game on the power play at 5:21, skating in on net from the near side faceoff circle and wristing a shot past Bruins goaltender Nicholas Lehr.
"I feel like we played pretty well tonight," Rowat said. "We played well enough to win, just a couple bad bounces and chances we should have buried on. I had a good chance and missed. We're just gripping our sticks a little tighter."
Minot native Jadin Martin scored a little more than three minutes later to give the Tauros a 2-1 advantage. It was short-lived, however, as Austin struck at the 14:27 mark to tie the game heading into the second intermission.
Parks finished with 32 saves for the Tauros, who host Austin again tonight at 7:35 p.m.