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Future college teammates Brooks, Riddle boost Austin Bruins’ postseason hopes

The Austin Bruins are in a tight three-way battle for one playoff spot. The Bruins' veterans found a way to help the team earn two key points on Friday, sparking a come-from-behind win against rival St. Cloud at Riverside Arena in Austin.

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Austin Bruins forward Barrett Brooks carries the puck during a game last season at Riverside Arena in Austin in this file photo. The second-year Bruin helped the team earn a big come-from-behind victory on Friday night against St. Cloud. (Photo courtesy of the Austin Bruins)

Barrett Brooks and Carson Riddle have shared a locker room for the past two seasons as members of the Austin Bruins.

They expect to do so again throughout their college hockey careers.

Friday, the future Western Michigan University teammates shared in some excitement on the ice at Riverside Arena, scoring key goals for the Bruins in a dramatic come-from-behind win that boosted the club’s hopes of qualifying for the North American Hockey League playoffs.

Brooks scored the game’s first goal. Riddle scored the tying goal with 1:49 remaining, and UMass commit John Lundy scored the winner just 1:11 later, and Garrett Dahm added an empty-net goal with 2 seconds to play as Austin beat the St. Cloud Norsemen 5-3 in a battle between two of the three teams fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NAHL Central Division.

“It’s a huge win,” said Brooks, who scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season at the 14:37 mark of the opening period. “It just builds momentum for us going into our final three games against them.”

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St. Cloud scored twice in the final five minutes of the second period to take a 2-1 lead, but Kyle Oleksiuk’s goal 2:20 into the third tied it at 2-2. That was short-lived, though, as Norsemen forward Nikolas Hong scored an unassisted short-handed goal 93 seconds later.

That set up Riddle’s momentum-turning game-tying goal, as he finished a nice feed from Alex Trombley just 13 seconds after the Bruins pulled goalie Hudson Hodges (18 saves).

As Hodges was skating to the bench, Riddle turned to head coach Steve Howard and asked who the coach wanted to take the ice as the extra attacker.

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Carson Riddle

“Carson’s goal was huge,” Howard said. “I hadn’t announced who was going (out for Hodges) yet and (Riddle) turned and said ‘coach, who’s going?’ I said ‘you are!’ and he went down there and buried it. I’m glad we sent him out there, a left-shot at that moment, in the right spot, it was perfect.”

Brooks, Dahm and Riddle were the only Bruins to record multiple points in the game, each with a goal and an assist. It pulls Austin (19-26-8, 46 points) within two points of the Minnesota Wilderness (22-26-4, 48 points) for the final playoff spot in the division.

The Wilderness have a game in hand on the Bruins, though three of the Wilderness’ final four games are against the top two teams in the division, Aberdeen and Bismarck. Austin closes its season with four straight games against St. Cloud, including Friday night’s win. The teams will take Saturday off, then play again Sunday at 5 p.m. at St. Cloud.

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“It was a battle. It’s been a battle all year against them,” said Brooks, who leads the Bruins this season with 33 points and has 52 points in 97 career games. “We know we have to stay disciplined, stay out of the box. They have a very good power play, so we have to stay disciplined throughout these last three games, like we’ve had to all year.”

After Lundy corralled a loose puck and blasted the game winning shot from the high slot, Brooks and Riddle both earned assists on Dahm’s empty-net goal to seal the win in a physical battle. Riddle is the Bruins’ second-leading scorer, with 32 points. The Holly, Mich., native has played 149 career games with Austin and he’s eligible to return against next season. He doesn’t turn 20 until June 26.

“He’s a third-year player, a veteran guy,” Howard said of Riddle. “He’s been one of our leaders all year. He knows the systems and the structure inside and out. He’s a guy who isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He’s not afraid to tell guys where to go and what to do.

“It’s been a blessing to have him for three years and we’re probably going to have him for a fourth. We’re looking for him to lead the way next year.”

The constant jawing by both sides boiled over a bit midway through the third period, when both teams had two players sent to the penalty box for roughing after a whistle.

Those emotions will likely only intensify over the next week as the teams play three more times — Sunday and next Friday at St. Cloud, then the regular season finale at Austin next Saturday, May 15.

“It does, it feels like a playoff series,” Howard said, “but it’s not about winning the series. The road ahead is one game at a time, but I think we have to win out.

“That was a big two points for us tonight … a lot of highs and lows and just trying to stay calm.”

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• • • • •

BRUINS 5, NORSEMEN 3

St. Cloud 0-2-1—3

Austin 1-0-4—5

First period — 1. AUS, Barrett Brooks 17 (Sutter Muzzatti 5, Garrett Dahm 14) 14:37 (pp). Second period — 2. STC, Ryan O’Neill 18 (Brett Chorske 32, Jordan Halverson 10) 15:21. 3. STC, Chorske 14 (Jack Suchy 16). Third period — 4. AUS, Kyle Oleksiuk 6 (Jacob Malinski 1) 2:20. 5. STC, Nikolas Hong 10 (unassisted) 3:53 (sh). 6. AUS, Carson Riddle 14 (Alex Trombley 12, Connor Mylymok 15) 18:11 (ea). 7. AUS, John Lundy 8 (unassisted) 19:22. 8. AUS, Dahm 12 (Riddle 18, Brooks 16) 19:58 (en).

Shots on goal — STC 5-10-6—21, AUS 23-12-9—44. Goalies — STC, Paxton Geisel (L, 13-20-0; 39 saves-43 shots); AUS, Hudson Hodges (W, 7-9-0; 18 saves-21 shots). Power-play opportunities — STC, 0-for-4; AUS, 1-for-6. Penalties — STC, 8-16 minutes; AUS, 6-12 minutes.

Related Topics: HOCKEYNAHLTHE RINK LIVE
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