The Minot Minotauros weren't about to squander a three-goal lead for the second time in as many nights to the Brookings Blizzard. Not with it being their final home game of the regular season.
Instead, the Tauros grabbed a three-goal advantage in the final minutes of the second period and held a firm grip on it, defeating the Blizzard 4-1 on Saturday at a sold-out Maysa Arena.
"Obviously, if you have any competitive nature in you, that doesn't sit too well losing a game the way we did last night," Minot coach Marty Murray said. "I thought our guys responded pretty well. There were certain points in the game, and give credit to Brookings, they didn't roll over. They kept pushing the pace and there were a couple minutes where they took it to us, but overall it was a decent game."
Tauros defenseman Jon Lizotte protects the puck from a diving Jack Stang on Saturday at Maysa Arena. Lizotte finished with two goals in Minot regular season home finale.
Minot finished the regular season 13-15-2 at home and will close out the 60-game schedule with two road contests at Brookings on Friday and Saturday. The Tauros will host at least one playoff game in mid-April. The specific date, time and opponent is still to be determined.
Much like the other night, the Tauros opened the scoring early in the first period, but it was someone other than Michael Louria. Defenseman Jon Lizotte rocketed a shot from just inside the blue line that ricocheted off the post before hitting the netting behind Brookings goaltender Garrett Forrest.
"Although these last four games don't have an impact on the standings, it's important for us to be firing on all cylinders and get ready for the first round of the playoffs," Murray said.
After his natural hat trick Friday, Louria remained hot Saturday, scoring his fourth goal in as many periods to give Minot a 2-0 lead with 6:50 left in the first period. Louria beat Forrest with a back-hand in front of the net for his 25th goal of the year and sixth with the Tauros.
"I'm just trying to shoot the puck more and, thankfully, it's going in," Louria said.
Tanner Holmquist tallied the goal that gave the Tauros another crack at protecting a three-goal lead. Holmquist possessed the puck at center ice and deked a Brookings defenseman before firing a shot on net. The puck bounced off Forrest before trickling over the goal line.
"We tried not to let the foot off the gas and get some momentum going into the playoffs," Louria said.
Quinn Fuchs recorded his first NAHL point, assisting on Holmquist's goal.
Brookings' Joe Nathe got the Blizzard on the scoreboard with a power-play goal with 5:47 left. Lizotte pushed Minot's lead back to three with an empty-net goal with 54 seconds remaining.
Minot goaltender Merrick Madsen finished with 24 saves in the victory.
"I thought he played real well," Murray said. "He was calming back there. I thought he made some big saves when called upon and I thought he was very solid tonight."
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics, the Minot Minotauros and the Minot State men's club hockey team. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.