The Austin Bruins, back in the NAHL Robertson Cup final for the third time in franchise history, and for the first time since going in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 were hoping that the third time would be the charm Tuesday evening as they took on the Oklahoma Warriors, the top team point-wise in the league before a capacity crowd at Fogarty Ice Arena in Blaine. Each team was in search of their first-ever league title, and in a game that saw both teams leave everything on the ice and then some, a power-play goal for the Warriors with only 3:37 left in the game proved to be the difference in a 4-3 victory.
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead when Isaak Brasaard tallied his first goal of the playoffs at 7:31 of the first period, with assists to his brother Matys Brasaard, his fifth of the postseason and to Matthew Desiderio, his third. Oklahoma’s Rylan Brady knotted the game at 1-1 with a goal at 11:37 of the period, and the Warriors expanded their lead to 3-1 with goals from Brendan Williams, his eighth of the playoffs at 4:52 of the second period, and for Blaise Miller, his first of the postseason at 10:04. Just went it looked as though Oklahoma would expand their lead even further, the Bruins came firing back with goals from Josh Giuliani on the power play, his fourth of the playoffs with assists to Walter Zacher, his fifth and to Damon Furseth, his fifth of the playoffs at 13:40 of the period to cut the Warrior’s lead to 3-2, and Zacher then snapped a wrist shot from the slot over the blocker of Oklahoma goaltender Daniel Duris for his ninth postseason goal at 19:07 of the period to tie the game at 3 apiece, with assists to Austin Salani, his fourth of the playoffs, and to Jack Malinski, his sixth.
The two teams then battled back-and-forth in a hotly contested third period that included Austin netminder Trent Wiemken turning away a penalty shot awarded to Oklahoma’s Rylan Brady at 6:55 of the period. With the score still tied at 3, a minor penalty for head contact was called on Austin with 4:49 to play, and on the ensuing power play, Oklahoma’s Garrett Horsager blasted a slap shot from the high slot passed a screened Wiemken at 16:23 to put the Warriors ahead, 4-3. The Bruins refused to fold, however, and when Oklahoma’s Blaise Miller was called for hooking at 18:25, Austin pulled Wiemken to set up a 6-on-4 advantage for the last 1:35. Try as they might, though, the Bruins were unable to put the puck past Duris, and the Warriors were able to clear the puck out of their zone in the final seconds to hold on for the win.
Austin outshot Oklahoma for the game 37-23, with Wiemken making 19 saves, and Duris turning away 34 shots to earn the win in net. Austin was whistled for two penalties for four minutes, while the Warriors were called for five penalties for 10 minutes, and the Bruins were 1 for 5 on the power play, while Oklahoma was 1 for 2.
Congratulations to the Bruins on a fantastic season that saw them win the Central Division regular-season and playoff titles, plus qualifying for the Robertson Cup final for the third time in franchise history.