The Minot Minotauros hoped to return from the North American Hockey League Showcase in Blaine, Minn., last weekend above .500 for the first time in program history.
Instead, the Tauros came back with three points after a 1-2-1 finish at the showcase. Despite earning more points this year than the past two combined (2), the Tauros expected to fare better.
"We were a little disappointed in the outcome," Tauros coach Marty Murray said. "It's back to the drawing board. We have some things to correct, some thing to build off. Being in our third year, we kind of expected more at the showcase."
The Tauros opened the showcase against Corpus Christi (Texas) and fought back from a pair of two-goal deficits. But Minot lost in the final minutes when Maurin Bouvet netted the game-winning goal for the Ice Rats with 1 minute, 6 seconds remaining in regulation.
The heartbreak continued the next day with a 3-2 shootout loss to Port Huron (Mich.). Minot forward Jadin Martin tied the game with one second remaining in regulation to force overtime and the ensuing shootout. The Fighting Falcons won the shootout 2-1.
"We worked hard to generate some offense," Murray said. "It's going to be tight in our division as well as our whole league. There's going to be a lot of one-goal games. It's important that we bear down on those chances and put teams away when we have the opportunity."
Tauros goaltender Brandon Wildung shined in Minot's 2-1 victory against Springfield (Ill.). The Minneota, Minn., native recorded 36 saves.
"You always want to do better and come out with as many wins as you can," Wildung said, "but overall I felt pretty good. My confidence is good and I'm just excited for the season."
The Tauros were led by veterans Tim Donohue and Martin. Donohue led Minot in scoring with three points (2 goals, 1 assist). The team captain scored Minot's only special-teams goal, a short-handed tally against Port Huron. Martin tallied two goals during the showcase.
"I thought there were a couple games where we played well," Donohue said. "The second and third games were our best. First game was a little slow. It was for everyone, but we can't use that as an excuse. There were some positives to take from the week, but we definitely have to clean up defensively."
The Tauros allowed 12 goals in four games, capped off by a 3-0 loss to Michigan.
The biggest disappointment for Murray wasn't the defense, but the power play. Minot finished 0-for-18 with the man advantage.
"That's something we're going to work on quite a bit in practice this week," Murray said. "There's no secrets. It's getting shots to the net and getting in position to bury rebounds."
Minot received quality contributions from a number of new players. Forward Jack Forbort tallied two goals, including the eventual game- winner against Springfield. New additions to the roster accounted for six of the team's nine assists.
"The coaches did a really good job finding new guys and bringing in young forwards that know how to score and know how to play the game," Donohue said. "We had a couple lines that stuck together for the whole week and played well."
The Tauros came out of the showcase in fourth place in the five-team NAHL Central Division. Austin (Minn.) went undefeated and sits atop the division, while Brookings (S.D.) is in the basement after an 0-3-1 showcase.
Minot plays its home opener against Austin at 7:35 p.m. Friday at Maysa Arena.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State University men's club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.