The St. Cloud Norsemen played the Austin Bruins 12 times in the regular season with each team winning six games. The teams each split in both buildings too, with both sides winning three in St. Cloud and three in Austin. So it should surprise no one that the 2nd Round best-of-five playoff series is deadlocked 1-1 with the series shifting to St. Cloud this weekend.
It’s no secret that the Norsemen team has been injured over, well… most of the season but particularly down the stretch of the end of the regular season and playoffs, particularly at forward. But St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz feels that the team may be reaping some of the benefits of sweeping Aberdeen in Round 1 in three games and not needing to play a fourth or fifth against the Wings. “We’re feeling pretty good. We’ve got the guys that we thought we would have,” explains Kautz. “ We’ve got those guys and we’re excited to play in our building and hopefully play a lot better than we did last game.”
After the Norsemen stole Game 1 on the road Friday night in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 overtime winner off the stick of Anthony Ruklic, Austin bounced back in a big way Saturday. They played desperate and we knew that was gonna happen. Obviously they scored 56 seconds into the game and gave that building some life and gave that team some momentum,” Kautz concedes. “They just kind of went with that moving forward, played super hard, played the right way, and made it tough for us.”
The Norsemen obviously went into Austin with the goal of sweeping the weekend and grabbing a 2-0 stranglehold of the series on the road as they’d done in Aberdeen two weekends prior, but they aren’t hanging their heads at the 1-1 status. “I think it’s just hard to beat a team twice in one weekend in any sport, honestly. We knew that; obviously we are happy with one win but you wanna win every game,” acknowledges Kautz. “Coming out of last weekend… if a couple months ago we were told we were gonna have the chance to win the Central with two games at home in kind of a best-of-three situation, we’d obviously have taken that. We’re happy with where we’re at but also understand that we have a lot to accomplish here this weekend. Our guys know that and they’re super excited for that.” Their victory Friday in essence stole home-ice advantage as two of the potentially three remaining games will be played at the MAC in St. Cloud and the Norsemen can advance without winning another game in Austin if they take care of business at home this weekend.
Kautz talks about how the Norsemen have assessed last weekend, particularly Saturday night, and the response he expects from his team. “We went over a bunch of the film and kind of looked at what happened. Tried to figure out what it was that didn’t allow us to play the way we know we’re capable of playing,” Kautz assesses. “The guys know that, they’re the first ones to admit it. So we look for them to have a really good effort and kind of change the way we play and hopefully that can change the outcome of it.”
The Norsemen host the Austin Bruins both Friday and Saturday night at the MAC with the games starting at 7:00 and tickets available online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com. The first 100 fans on Friday night will receive a set of 2022-23 St. Cloud Norsemen trading cards thanks to Rengel Printing.
If the two teams need a decisive Game 5, that would be played Sunday at 5:05 in Austin and the game can be viewed online at hockeytv.com.