The Austin Bruins were looking to claim the NAHL’s Central Division title at Riverside Arena Saturday evening versus the third-place St. Cloud Norsemen, and a goal in a shootout from leading goal scorer Walter Zacher, plus three saves from winning goaltender Trent Wiemken lifted the Bruins to a 3-2 victory and their first Central Division title since the 2014-2015 season.
Austin’s Josh Giuliani tallied his 20th goal of the season on the power play at 6:17 of the first period to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead, with assists to Gavin Morrissey, his team-leading 40th and to Jack Malinski, his 32nd, but St. Cloud tied the game at 1-1 on a goal from Hunter Hanson, his 11th, at 9:02. St. Cloud’s Hogan Sinjem’s third goal of the season was the only tally of the second period to give the Norsemen a 2-1 lead after two, but Dylan Cook tallied his 15th goal of the season for the Bruins only :13 seconds into the third period, with assists to Morrissey, his 41st and to Walter Zacher, his 21st to tie the game at two apiece after regulation time.
After a scoreless overtime period, St. Cloud’s Blake Perbix was turned away by Wiemken to start the shootout, followed by Zacher putting the puck past Norsemen netminder Will Ingemann to give Austin a 1-0 lead. Wiemken then stoned St. Cloud’s Kade Peterson, but Ingemann then turned away Austin’s Gavin Morrissey to keep the Norsemen alive. St. Cloud needed Andrew Clarke to score to keep the shootout going, but Wiemken was again equal to the task as he stopped a shot from Clarke to clinch the win and a Central Division title for Austin.
St. Cloud outshot Austin 35-21 for the game, with Wiemken turning away 33 shots for the win, and Ingemann making 19 saves between pipes for the Norsemen, and the Bruins were penalized four times in the contest for 10 minutes, while the Norsemen were whistled for three penalties for six minutes. Austin was 1 for 3 on the power play, while St. Cloud was 0 for 5.
With the win, the Bruins are now 33-13-3-5-2 for 74 points, 13 points clear of the second place North Iowa Bulls, who are one point ahead of third place St. Cloud and three points ahead of fourth place Aberdeen. Austin returns to action in St. Cloud Thursday night versus the Norsemen, and you’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS and myaustinminnesota.com, with face-off at 7 p.m. Austin and St. Cloud will meet again at Riverside Arena Saturday, April 1st at 7:05 p.m.