24 in 24 Series: Minot Minotauros
August 31, 2016
The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2016-17 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season. 24 in 24 looks into each NAHL team and will include video interviews with all 24 head coaches in the NAHL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the season, including taking a look at their strengths as a team and thoughts on the league. It will also take a look back on last season and how each team fared and what they accomplished.
Head Coach: Marty Murray (6th year)
2015-16 record: 35-19-6, 76 pts. (2nd in the Central Division)
2015-16 leading scorer: Christian Mohs (50 points)
2016 Playoffs: Lost to the Austin Bruins in the Central Division Semi-Finals, 3 games to 1
2016-17 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 21st vs. Kenai River Brown Bears
Home opener: Friday, September 30th vs. Aberdeen Wings
It was another solid season for head coach Marty Murray and the Minot Minotauros. For the second straight season, the Minotauros contended for the Central Division regular season title, finishing in 2nd place, just two points behind division champion Bismarck. On top of that, the Minotauros also had another great year in the commitment department with 12 players with Minot ties committing to the NCAA.
As the season concluded and the playoffs began, the Minotauros met an all too familiar foe in the playoffs, the Austin Bruins. The series marked the fourth straight year the two teams have met one another in the playoffs, and unfortunately for the Minotauros, the Bruins once again captured the series for the fourth straight year as Minot’s season came to a end.
“I think we came into this season looking to improve in all areas, because there is work to do to get better. We really struggled on special teams and ultimately that is something that has to be more efficient if we want to contend for a cup,” said Murray. The Minotauros were a top 10 team in the NAHL in both goals for and goals against, but Murray’s statement about special teams is accurate. The Minotauros ranked just 15 out of 22 on the power play (15.6%) and were even lower on the penalty kill, ranking 18 out of 22 with an 80% penalty kill.
Murray also spoke on the fact of wanting to get better because he believes the Central Division will be even tougher than it has been in previous years. “There are two big and notable changes in the division, which in my opinion, has made things even tougher. First, you have a team like the Minnesota Wilderness, who are just a year removed from winning the Robertson Cup. Second, you have the Aberdeen Wings and new head coach Scott Langer, who is a proven winner. Lastly, you combine that with everyone else being a year older and wiser and there will be no nights off. Our players will be better because of it,” said Murray.
The Minotauros open the season at the 14th annual NAHL Showcase with games against Kenai River, Lone Star, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and the defending Robertson Cup Champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Murray said that being on such a grand stage so early in the season is going to make the players compete at the top of their game. “This is as good of exposure as there is, so whether you are a player that has NCAA or NHL aspirations, all the scouts are there. There is such a buzz and it is one of those things that is unique to the league and one of the reasons behind its success,” said Murray.
Murray said that there is still a lot of work to do, but the support from the Minot community has been great and he would like nothing else than to bring back the Robertson Cup to the town. “I think it is an exciting time for our program and our fans, who are as loyal, supportive and passionate as it gets. I think everyone wants to win the Robertson Cup, but it is just not that easy. Our hope is to start strong and then see what we have to work with. We want to also continue the growing trend of committing our players to NCAA programs.”
As for the benefits and strengths of the NAHL, Murray stated that the balance among teams really sticks out. “There is a lot of parity in the league, which is a great thing. Every night is a test and you never know who is watching. The fact that the NAHL committed 259 players last year to NCAA schools is just mind-boggling. It is such an incredible opportunity for these players. This is my sixth year in the league and every season I just am in awe of what the NAHL has managed to accomplish,” said Murray.
As for what Murray thinks may get the Minotauros over the hump in 2016-17, he said that it all leads back to hard work. “Your work ethic and compete level have to be the stables of your foundation of a team and will be the way by which we measure ourselves. We want to have a lot of puck possession and be able to skate well, but ultimately we want to be a team that is going to make our opponents work harder than anyone else they play against,” said Murray.
Next in the 24 in 24 series: New Jersey Titans