24 in 24: Minot Minotauros
September 4, 2018
The 24 in 24 series features a look at all 24 teams in the NAHL for the 2018-19 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 24 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 (8th Year)
2017-18 record: 28-26-6, 62 pts. (4th in the Central Division)
2017-18 leading scorer: Miroslav Mucha (55 pts.)
2018 Playoffs: Lost to the Shreveport Mudbugs in the Robertson Cup Championship Game, 2-1
2018-19 Division: Central
First regular season game: Wednesday, September 19th vs. Northeast Generals
Home opener: Saturday, October 6th vs. Bismarck Bobcats
Last season was one that the Minot Minotauros will remember for a long time. A year after winning a team-record 38 games in 2016-17, but then falling short in the Central Division Playoffs as the #1 seed, the Minotauros came back in 2017-18 with something to prove.
The regular season was a grind and full of ups and downs, but the Minotauros made it through the grind and qualified for the Robertson Cup Playoffs as the #4 seed in the Central. In an ironic twist of déjà vu, the Minotauros would be matched-up against the Aberdeen Wings in the opening round. Aberdeen was the team that a season earlier had knocked off the #1-ranked Minotauros in the playoffs as the #4 seed. However, the Minotauros dished up some revenge and beat the Wings in the opening round followed by a series win over the Austin Bruins to make it to the Robertson Cup.
As the clear underdog in the Robertson Cup, the Minotauros shrugged off a Game 1 loss to the top-ranked Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Semi-Finals, but then stunned the Ice Dogs with wins in Games 2 and 3 to make it to the title game. In the National Championship, the Minotauros again had everyone believing as they scored the game’s opening goal, but it was not meant to be as the Shreveport Mudbugs came from behind to win the title and the Robertson Cup by a score of 2-1. “Last year was a wild ride. I think the battle just to make the playoffs in February and March really prepared us for what was to come in April and May. It was all a matter of getting hot at the right time, staying healthy, and getting good goaltending. We played with a lot of confidence because we beat some very good teams to get to the Robertson Cup Final,” said Minotauros head coach Marty Murray.
The Minotauros also were among the league leaders with 14 NCAA commitments off of last year’s team, with 11 of those as NCAA Division I commitments. Six of those NCAA commitments came following the Minotauros incredible run to the Robertson Cup title game, lending further credence to their performance and development. “We raised the bar with our expectations and what can be accomplished. While it was an incredible experience to play in one game for a chance to win a National Championship, it was very disappointing to fall one goal short. I think for a lot of us, it took some time to absorb that and then finally appreciate what we did accomplish,” said Murray. “I think the veteran players returning will be hungry to get back there again and help the new guys understand that this is now the standard at which we play by.”
Heading into the 2018-19 season, there will be plenty of players on the roster that were a part of the team last season and remember the run to the finals. “I think with the guys we have coming back there should still have that hunger of wanting to finish the job. There is a lot of work that goes into it. We have had great success with the Draft and our camps, and this year is shaping up to be the same way. That really helps us identify who we want on the team and how they fit into this year’s plans,” said Murray.
Some of the key players returning include Forwards Keenan Lund (18 pts.), Taylor Lantz (18 pts.), and Fritz Belisle (14 pts.), along with defensemen Lincoln Erne (17 pts.) and Connor McGinnis (9 pts.). Erne was named to the NAHL All-Central Division Rookie Team last season. In goal, the front-runner of the three goalies to carry the load and start out of training camp is Nick Grabko. As an emergency back-up last season, Grabko saw almost all of the playing time during crunch time in the month of March last season, posting a 5-3-0 record to go along with a .933 save percentage.
“I’m proud of the fact that we are a well-respected organization in the NAHL. Off the ice, we want to be heavily involved in our community. On the ice, we want to continue to develop and move our players onto the NCAA and the highest levels of hockey. We know that the Central Division is going to be a battle all year long. I think it has been proven that any one of the four teams that make the playoffs have a great chance of representing the division at the Robertson Cup and we have to compete every night,” said Murray.
Next up in the 24 in 24 series: New Jersey Titans