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Bruins’ bounce-back ability to be put to ultimate test after Maryland win

The Austin Bruins have shown the ability to bounce back from losses all season. Though they fell to Maryland in Game 2 of the Robertson Cup semifinals on Saturday, if they can bounce back one more time, they'll play for a national championship.

Maryland goaltender William Hakansson (33) makes a glove save with Austin forward Austin Salani (4) in front of the net Saturday, May 20, 2023, in an NAHL Robertson Cup Championship matchup at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Eli Swanson / The Rink Live

BLAINE, Minn. — Austin’s speed, smarts and power-play proficiency were the difference in Game 1 of the North American Hockey League’s national semifinals on Friday night.

Maryland’s size was the difference in Game 2 on Saturday.

Austin outplayed the Black Bears for long stretches, but Maryland seemingly blocked as many shots as they allowed on goal. More importantly, the Black Bears finally found a way to beat Austin goalie Trent Wiemken for the first time in the best-of-3 series. And Maryland goalie William Hakansson had a bounce-back game, making 34 saves.

That resulted in a 2-1 Maryland victory at Fogerty Arena.

“Obviously it didn’t go our way, but I’m proud of our guys, got 35 shots on net and had a lot of chances, we just have to find the back of the net,” Bruins coach Steve Howard said. “Hats off to (Hakansson). He played great, especially early on. He had a couple sort-of breakaways, made some good saves and kept them in it.


We have to find the back of the net … we didn’t get those second and third opportunities tonight. That’s something you have to have, especially on the power play.”

The Black Bears’ win forces a Game 3 at 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We’ve lost games before and we’ve always had bounce-back wins,” Bruins captain and second-year defenseman Jack Malinski said. “We just have to look back at the regular season. We did it all regular season. We just have to flush it. That’s what we normally do.

“We outplayed them tonight. We just have to come back tomorrow and give it our all. If we lose, we know we tried our best. If we win, we know we deserved it.”

The winner of Game 3 will face the Oklahoma Warriors for the Robertson Cup at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The loser’s season is over.

After getting shut out by the Bruins and goalie Trent Wiemken in Game 1, the Black Bears broke through and scored twice in less than 4 minutes at the start of the second period.

Hakansson — who was shaky at times in a 4-0 Game 1 loss on Friday — made those goals stand up. He was outstanding in Game 2, making 34 saves and holding what had been a red-hot Bruins power play scoreless in six chances Saturday.

Austin forward Walter Zacher (20) goes through the handshake line after scoring in the third period Saturday, May 20, 2023, in an NAHL Robertson Cup Championship matchup against Maryland at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Eli Swanson / The Rink Live

Austin finally solved him in the third period, as Walter Zacher threaded a shot through traffic from the slot to pull the Bruins within 2-1 just one second after a power play expired.


Austin had been red-hot on the power play in the postseason, coming into Saturday’s game at 41% (16-for-39), but the Bruins were 0-for-6 in Game 2. They had chances, but either narrowly missed the net (such as an Austin Salani re-direct in the third period that bounded just wide) or Hakansson came up big for the Black Bears.

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“We need to take care of the puck a little better, especially on the power play, need to move it around a little more,” Howard said. “I thought we were over-handling pucks and trying to force things, rather than moving it around. That’s probably the biggest adjustment we need to make.”

The Bruins pushed for the tying goal and some quality scoring chances — including Zacher hitting a post for the third time in the series — but couldn’t get another one past Hakansson.

“I think on the power play we had a lot of chances, had a lot of Grade-A chances,” Malinski said. “I think we just have to settle it down more. They have a good penalty kill; they’re aggressive. At the same time, when we can get set up … if we can be patient and find those shooting lanes we’ll be better tomorrow on the power play.”

Maryland goaltender William Hakansson (33) looks for the puck with Austin forward Gavin Morrissey (9) and Maryland defenseman Luke Amell (2) in front of the net Saturday, May 20, 2023, in an NAHL Robertson Cup Championship matchup at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Eli Swanson / The Rink Live

After capturing regular-season and postseason division championships, Austin is intent to not let its season end on Sunday. It’s the first time this postseason the Bruins will face elimination.

“We have to bring everything,” Howard said. “This is it. Everybody’s backs are against the wall. It’s going to be about who can find the back of the net. That was them tonight; it was us last night. Now it comes down to a Game 3.

“We have to not think about the last game, get back on the horse and go.”

NOTES: Maryland's Kaleb Tiessen was assessed a gross misconduct penalty for abuse of officials after the final buzzer. The penalty could carry a game disqualification as well, though no clarification on Tiessen's status for Sunday's game was immediately available. ... For the ninth time in nine playoff games, Austin used the same starting lineup: Goalie Trent Wiemken, defensemen Giuseppe Fiorillo and Jack Malinski, and forwards Matys Brassard, Jackson Luther and Isaak Brassard. … For just the second time in nine playoff games, Austin did not score the game’s first goal. … This was Austin’s first loss to a non-Central Division team in six games this season. … The top-seeded Oklahoma Warriors closed out the other Robertson Cup semifinal series with a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wilderness on Saturday.


How They Scored


No scoring


Maryland 1, Austin 0. Riley Ruh (Branden Piku, Gunnar VanDamme) :37. On a power play to start the period, the Black Bears enter the offensive zone with speed. Ruh drives to the net and gives the Black Bears their first lead of the series.

Maryland 2, Austin 0. Brayden Stannard (Piku) 3:49. Maryland again enters the zone with speed and a 2-on-2 rush. Piku drops a pass for Stannard in the left circle and Stannard beats Bruins goalie Trent Wiemken for a two-goal lead. It’s the first time this postseason Austin has trailed by more than a goal.


Maryland 2, Austin 1. Walter Zacher (Gavin Morrissey, Dylan Cook) 5:15. One second after a Bruins power play expires, Morrissey moves the puck to Zacher in the high slot and he fires a wrist shot past Hakansson to get Austin on the board.

PB’s 3 Stars

No. 1: William Hakansson, Maryland. The Black Bears goalie bounced back from a rough performance in Game 1 by stopping 34 shots in Game 2 and holding Austin to an 0-for-6 night on the power play.


No. 2: Branden Piku, Maryland. The Black Bears star scorer set up both of his team’s goals, just 3:12 apart. He now has 10 assists this postseason.

No. 3: Trent Wiemken, Austin. The Bruins goalie needed to make only 19 saves, but many were of the spectacular variety. He continues to keep his team in games and shut down opposing team’s quality chances.

Box Score


Maryland 0-2-0 — 2

Austin 0-0-1 — 1

First period — No scoring. Second period — 1. MRD, Riley Ruh 2 (Branden Piku 9, Gunnar VanDamme 5) :37 (pp). 2. MRD, Brayden Stannard 2 (Piku 10) 3:49. Third period — 3. AUS, Walter Zacher 7 (Gavin Morrissey 10, Dylan Cook 7) 5:15.

Shots on goal — MRD 6-10-5 — 21; AUS 11-16-8 — 35. Goalies — MRD, William Hakansson (W, 7-2-0; 35 shots-34 saves); AUS, Trent Wiemken (L, 7-1-1; 21 shots-19 saves). Power-play opportunities — MRD 1-for-2; AUS 0-for-7. Penalties — MRD 8-34 minutes; AUS 2-4 minutes.




(Best 2 out of 3)


Game 1, Friday, May 19: Austin 4, Maryland 0

Game 2, Saturday, May 20: Maryland 2, Austin 1 (series tied 1-1)

Game 3, Sunday, May 21: Austin vs. Maryland, 6 p.m. (if necessary)

• • • • •


Game 1, Friday, May 19: Oklahoma 4, Minnesota 2


Game 2, Saturday, May 20: Oklahoma 3, Minnesota 1 (Warriors win series 2-0)

• • • • •


Tuesday, May 23

Austin/Maryland winner vs. Oklahoma Warriors (52-14-2), 7 p.m.

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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