It's that time of the year again.
The time when the Minot Minotauros go on a midseason tear to make up for a sluggish start.
Minot won its fifth straight game Friday with a 4-3 victory over the Aberdeen Wings at Maysa Arena. The Tauros controlled puck possession throughout the contest, outshooting Aberdeen 44-18.
Minot forward Scott Smoot, second from right, looks for the puck after winning a scrum against two Aberdeen players Friday at Maysa Arena.
"It's determination," Tauros defenseman Michael Bigelbach said of the shot differential. "We're getting pucks to the net and getting more second and third opportunities."
Minot (10-12-2) started fast, jumping out to a 2-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the first period. Forward Colton Kramer started the scoring on the Tauros' only power-play opportunity of the period. Following a hooking penalty assessed to Aberdeen's Ryan Cook, Kramer corralled a rebound in front of the net and buried a shot past goaltender Chad Catt. Catt was unable to control the puck after stopping a shot by defenseman Kyle Kruenegel.
"We've been a little lackadaisical, so it was nice to see the guys come out in the first period and get a couple early," Tauros coach Marty Murray said. "Unfortunately, we were tied after one, but that created some momentum for us the rest of the game."
Less than two minutes later, Tauros defenseman Max Pernhem fired a seeing-eye slap shot from the blue line that went just over Catt's glove after getting through heavy traffic. Minot peppered the Aberdeen goaltender with 17 shots in the opening 20 minutes, but Catt stonewalled the Tauros over the final 10:19 of the frame.
The Wings (14-8-1) managed just five shots on Minot goaltender Merrick Madsen, but managed to tie the contest heading into the first period intermission. Jonathon Grebosky tallied both goals in a span of 2:29. Grebosky's second came on the power play.
The Tauros reclaimed the lead on a goal by Michael Bigelbachat at 10:52 of the second period. Bigelbach skated into the slot unaccounted for by the Aberdeen defense and forward Jadin Martin found him with a pass from the side boards. The 6-foot-2 defenseman wristed a shot that snuck just inside the glove-side post to give the Tauros the 3-2 advantage.
"I don't think you can say we had too many passengers tonight," Murray said. "Everybody was pretty strong and we need that to be successful. We don't have a player in the top 10 in scoring. So we have to score by committee and do the little things. When we do that we're a pretty decent team."
Bigelbach had a hand in Minot's fourth goal as well, this time assisting on forward Alex Kasitsyn's lamp-lighter. Bigelbach delivered a cross-ice pass to Kasitsyn at the left faceoff circle and the 6-1 forward placed a wrist shot over Catt's stick-side shoulder.
"Our guys are pulling on the rope and playing for each other," Murray said. "It's fun to see them play that way. Our last nine games have been pretty solid."
Jake Horton pulled the Wings within one with 2:03 remaining in the third as Aberdeen pulled Catt for the extra skater. The Tauros were able to hold on with key saves by Madsen in the final minute.
Madsen finished with 15 saves while Catt recorded 40.
The teams play again tonight at 8:05.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.