In true underdog fashion, the Minot Minotauros scored three goals in the third period to come from behind to defeat the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, 5-4 in overtime in Game 3 of the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup Semi-Finals. Ondrej Pavel scored the game-winner to win the series for Minot and advance them to the Robertson Cup National Championship Game, which will take place tonight where they will face the Shreveport Mudbugs at 7 p.m., at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn. The National Championship Game will feature 19 players who are from the state of Minnesota.
The Minotauros got off to a good start. After goaltender Samu Lonkila made several key stops early, the Minotauros were able to strike for the game’s first goal with 7:36 remaining in the opening period as Connor McGinnis streaked down the right wing and found Michael Talbot darting through the slot and beat an Ice Dogs defenseman to the front of the net to tip home a pass past Ice Dogs goalie Josh Benson for a 1-0 Minotauros lead, which they would take into the first intermission.
As good as the first period was for Minot, it quickly turned into a better period for the Ice Dogs in the second period. Just about five minutes into the period, the Ice Dogs struck for their first goal of the game as Caleb Hite found himself loose down the left wing as he fired a snap shot that beat Lonkila over the glove to knot the game at 1-1.
Less than three minutes later, the Ice Dogs took their first lead of the game as Luke Mobley crashed the net to poke home a loose puck that Lonkila saved initially, but got turned around and could not find the puck between his legs as he was hugging the post on the goal line.
The Ice Dogs kept their foot on the gas as Hite would strike again for his second goal of the game and fifth of the Robertson Cup Playoffs as he got a pass in the corner and walked out front and again fired a snap shot over the glove of Lonkila for a 3-1 lead after two periods.
In the third period, a desperate Minotauros team ramped up the pressure and it paid off with 6:53 remaining in regulation as Minot forward Miroslav Mucha wrapped a shot toward the net that went off of Fairbanks goalie Josh Benson for a power-play goal as the Minotauros made the score 3-2.
Just minutes after Mucha’s goal, a faceoff win deep in the Fairbanks zone led to a shot from the point, which was tipped home by Michael Talbot for his second goal of the contest to knot the game at 3-3 late in the third period.
Fairbanks thought they had scored the series winner as with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, a faceoff win got the puck back to defenseman Nolan Schaeffer, who wristed a shot through traffic and behind Lonkila to make it 4-3 for Fairbanks.
Just 30 seconds later, Minot answered back again in similar fashion as a face-off win got the puck back to defenseman Nolan Sawchuk, who shot the puck through traffic and past Benson to tie the game at 4-4 and send it to overtime.
In the overtime, each team had their chances, but an Ice Dogs turnover at center ice on a line change was picked off by Minot forward Ondrej Pavel, who skated in alone and fired the series winner over the glove of Benson. Lonkila made 36 saves in the win for the Minotauros, while Benson made 23 saves in the loss.
The Robertson Cup is awarded to the national playoff champion of the North American Hockey League. The oldest junior hockey trophy in the United States, the Robertson Cup is named in honor of Chuck Robertson, a pioneer of junior hockey in the NAHL and youth hockey in the state of Michigan. Robertson was the owner of the Paddock Pools Saints when they won a record seven straight championships from 1976-83.
About the NAHL
The NAHL, the only USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier II Junior league boasting 24 teams from across North America, prides itself on the social maturity and skill development of student-athletes ages 16-20 with aspirations of advancing to collegiate and/or professional hockey. So far during the 2017-18 season, the NAHL has recorded 238 NCAA commitments, 86 percent of which were NCAA Division I commitments. In addition, three NAHL players that played in the league this past season were selected in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
|Minot||Alex Adams||F||Grand Rapids|
|Minot||Fritz Belisle||F||Red Wing|
|Minot||Grant Loven||F||East Grand Forks|
|Shreveport||Andrew Erwin||D||Eden Prairie|
|Shreveport||Jack Jaunich||F||White Bear Lake|
|Shreveport||Nikolai Jenson||D||Cold Spring|