Wednesday the St. Cloud Norsemen are hosting the Austin Bruins, a team that comes in hot, having won five in a row and eight of the last nine. The Bruins have a record of 13-2-4 and are getting it done without putting up eye dropping offensive numbers, but they’re taking care of their end of the rink and making teams struggle to score against them.
Surprisingly, the Bruins have only won two games with a shutout on the year, but both came in the last four games, including their last time out hosting North Iowa last Thursday. Austin has given up just 41 goals in 19 games and their 2.16 goals against per game is 4th best in the NAHL. They can put the puck in the net as well as their 3.26 goals for per game is 6th in the league and they’re also top ten in shots for per game with 32.84 (6th) and shots against with 28.89 (8th).
“They’re obviously off to a really good start; two losses on the year in regulation. They’re doing a lot of things right,” compliments St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz. “They’re physical and their special teams have been pretty good. They don’t give up a ton of goals. All that adds up to a lot of success.”
Austin’s power play hasn’t been anything spectacular, scoring 17.0% of the time, 19th of 29 teams in the NAHL, but their penalty kill rate of 87.6% is absolutely lethal, 2nd in the league. They say your best penalty killer has to be your goalie and either netminder that the Bruins have turned to has been incredibly solid. Ethan Robertson has a 7-1-2 record and is 2nd in the league in save percentage (.943%) and 3rd in goals against average (1.59) but his backup Trent Wiemken (6-1-2) has been no slouch either with a .919 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average.
Austin’s offense is paced by Austin Salani who leads the team in points with 18 (7-11-18 in 19 GP) and is +12 on teh season but they’ve got a couple of defensemen who can also get on the scoresheet in James Goffredo (6-8-14 in 19 GP) and Jack Malinski (1-12-13 in 12 GP). Malinski leads the team in points per game, is the only player on the Bruins with more points than games played and also leads the team in plus/minus with a +13 rating.
The first two games these two teams played against one another were incredibly tight games, with both going to a shootout. On Friday night in St. Cloud, the Norsemen twice trailed by two and came back to force overtime thanks to a couple Kade Peterson goals and then Peterson and Blake Perbix each converted their shootout attempts to come away with the 4-3 victory. In the rematch the next night in Austin, Norsemen goalie Will Ingemann made 29 saves in regulation and overtime and picked up the victory thanks to Perbix and Tyler Dysart scoring on their shootout chances.
Kautz remembers that home-and-home series well and expects we likely could easily have overtime once again in this matchup. “Two very tight games and we expect to see the same thing this week,” Kautz notes. Detailing how things went last time they saw the Bruins Kautz says “We did the little things right; a couple of these games lately we’ve gotten away from playing a full 60 minutes. Against Austin early in the season we put together as close to a 60 minute game as we have so we’re hoping to do that before we get the weekend off.”
Perbix, a three year Norsemen veteran winger from Princeton, MN, had a big night for St. Cloud this past Saturday and helped his squad pull within striking distance with a goal and two assists, but ultimately Minot prevailed by a 4-3 score. Blake can get hot; through 19 games Perbix has had five multi-point nights and he could be a big factor this weekend. While Perbix is known for his offense, Kautz believes his defense may actually be sparking his game as of late. “He’s blocked a few shots lately, and I think that gives him a little more energy when the boys are slamming their sticks in support,” rationalizes Kautz. Talking about his game on Saturday, Kautz says of Perbix “He was in the right spots, he was doing some things in our end that we like to see him do. As a wing he’s gotta get pucks out, he’s gotta block shots, and then when you do that you can kinda get up in the play and let the offensive abilities set in.”
This is the only game of the week for the Norsemen and St. Cloud is the only NAHL team that Austin has a losing record against. The puck drops Wednesday night at the MAC at 7:00 pm. You can get your tickets online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.