Austin Bruins lock up playoff spot, inch closer to division championship

The Austin Bruins got 21 saves from a goalie making his second NAHL start, and they secured a spot in the Central Division playoffs by beating rival Bismarck on Saturday at Riverside Arena in Austin.

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Austin Bruins

AUSTIN — Adam Prokop made his first North American Hockey League start exactly one month ago at Riverside Arena in Austin.

The Prokop-backed Austin Bruins weren't able to pull out a win that night, falling to the Bismarck Bobcats by a goal.

Prokop, who spent a majority of the 2022-23 season playing for the Milwaukee Power of the North American 3 Hockey League, returned to Austin, returned to the Bruins and returned to their starting lineup on Saturday at Riverside Arena.

Coincidentally, Prokop's second NAHL start came against the same team as his first.

The result was different this time, though, as Prokop stopped 21 of the 23 shots he faced and the Bruins never trailed in the game, getting goals from Jackson Rilei, Josh Giuliani, Matthew Desiderio, Walter Zacher and Ocean Wallace to beat visiting Bismarck 5-2.


The victory wrapped up a playoff spot for the Bruins (32-13-8), who hold a commanding 13-point lead in the division standings with seven games remaining.

The Bruins will lock up home-ice advantage for the first round of the Central Division playoffs with one victory in their final seven games. They'll clinch a division championship with two more wins.


Austin controlled Saturday's game from the outset, as Rilei scored his second goal of the season just 2:19 into the game. It's the second goal of the year for Rilei, a rookie from Calumet, Mich., and his first goal since the season opener way back on Sept. 14.

Giuliani made it 2-0 at the 8:25 mark.

Bismarck cut its deficit in half with 3:05 to play in the first on the first junior hockey goal by Attila Lippai, who a University of St. Thomas commit who starred at the Minnesota high school state tournament last week for St. Paul's Cretin Derham Hall.

Austin quickly went back up by two goals, 3:35 into the second, when Desiderio scored his fourth of the year.

That's how the score remained until Zacher scored his 29th of the year 49 seconds into the third period. After the Bobcats pulled back within two, Wallace added a late empty-net goal to make it a 5-2 final.

Bismarck (22-24-6) sits in last place in the six-team Central Division, but the Bobcats are just five points out of fourth place, the last position that will make the division playoffs.


Austin has just one game next weekend — a 7:05 p.m. Saturday matchup against the St. Cloud Norsemen (26-20-7), who sit in a tie for second place in the Central, 13 points back of the Bruins.

BOX SCORE: Austin Bruins 5, Bismarck Bobcats 2

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