The St. Cloud Norsemen will host the Minot Minotauros this weekend for a pair of games at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex. Minot comes into the weekend second in the Central Division standings but their record of 13-10-1-1 shows they’ve only won one more game than they’ve lost, and also goes to show just how tight the standings are in the Central. Austin has built a comfortable lead at the top but it is logjam from there; there are more points (10) separating first from second place than there are between second and sixth place.
Minot started off the season hot with a 10-5-0 record through 15 games including a 5-game winning streak. But immediately after they reached season high of five games above .500 they lost four in a row and have won just three of their last 10 games. St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen knows the frustration Minot is going through and says the culprit to their struggles is pretty obvious.
“It’s the same problem a lot of teams have in a lot of different leagues. If you’re banged up and have key injuries it can have an impact on the results. We’re a classic case of that,” points out Millen. “They obviously have one of their goalies banged up and that has impacted them. Those are things that teams are going to have to deal with throughout the year, some more than others.”
The goalie referenced is Lawton Zacher. The 6’1 172 pound netminder is committed to Brown and is top 5 in the league in goals against average (5th with 1.80 gaa) and save percentage (.940%, good for 4th). But the Buffalo, NY native played the first half of a game in Austin on November 11th until the 12:10 mark of the second period when a collision with the Bruins’ Dylan Cook resulted in Zacher leaving the game; the game was tied 1-1 at the time and his Minotauros gave up three more goals and lost in overtime. Dane Couture filled in for Zacher in that game and has appeared in all but one game for Minot since but has struggled with a 3.41 goals against average and .881 save percentage on the year. In the seven games in Zacher’s absence Minot surrendered 30 goals and they have not seemed like the same team since.
The Norsemen did get their captain Nik Hong back in the lineup and welcomed newcomer Elmeri Hällfors who played his first two games for St. Cloud last weekend, but as Coach Millen has pointed out, it’s been an up and down season for the Norsemen from an injury standpoint. “We haven’t been healthy all year long yet and it’s a problem. We were getting healthier but we did sustain a couple significant injuries this past weekend. We took a couple steps forward and a couple steps back,” Millen admits. “It’s part of the deal, you’ve got to keep your fingers crossed and hope that you can get healthy at some point. There’s a lot of dynamics that go on with that.”
The Norsemen have four home games in the next two weekends including two this coming weekend on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are still available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.