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Power outage: Bruins can't cash in on power plays, get shut out at home

The Austin Bruins went 0-for-5 on power-play opportunities Friday, including one five-minute power play, and nearly a minute of a 5-on-3 power play, in a loss to the Aberdeen Wings at Riverside Arena.

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Austin Bruins goalie Klayton Knapp prepares to face a shot off a faceoff to his right during a game against the Aberdeen Wings on Friday at Riverside Arena in Austin. Aberdeen defeated the Bruins 3-0.

AUSTIN — Carson Riddle calls it the "Midnight Rule."

Good or bad, he'll allow himself to think about a hockey game he's played in until midnight of that day. Then the Austin Bruins' veteran forward and captain shifts his focus to the next game.

"I'll think about it 'til midnight, think about what you could've done better, watch a little film, but tomorrow's a new day," Riddle, the fourth-year Bruins forward, said. "We can't wake up tomorrow upset with what happened tonight. We'll definitely use it as motivation, but it's a long season. These games happen."

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Carson Riddle

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It's part of Riddle's job to make sure his teammates have the same mindset, and that they forget about Friday's performance when they wake up Saturday. After all, the 3-0 loss to the Aberdeen Wings at Riverside Arena didn't hurt the Bruins (13-8-3 overall) in the North American Hockey League Central Division standings. They're still in first place, a point ahead of rival North Iowa, which lost 4-2 to St. Cloud on Friday.

Aberdeen and Austin are set to meet again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Riverside Arena.

"Tonight was one of those games, I felt we were pretty flat," Riddle said. "That starts from leadership on down. We all have to be better and be ready to go tomorrow. (As leaders) we just have to try to keep the guys motivated, have to get 'em going, erase this one from the back of our minds. We have a whole new game tomorrow."

Remaining in first place was one of few positives the team could find after a performance that coaches and players clearly felt was frustratingly lackluster.

Austin was outshot 35-33 and it went 0-for-5 on the power play, rarely generating any quality scoring chances. It was equally frustrating because the Bruins played some of their best hockey to-date last weekend in sweeping North Iowa, the team right on Austin's heels at the top of the Central Division standings. The Bruins clicked at a 33 percent rate on the power play in the 5-3 and 4-1 victories against the Bulls.

Friday was a different story, and it left the team's leaders and coaches scratching their heads, attempting to determine how to bottle the energy and effort they showed a week ago, and have shown throughout much of the season.

"Our power play; when we score on the power play, we're good," Bruins head coach Steve Howard said. "When we don't ... and the guys who are on our power play, you could tell that 5-on-5 they didn't have it tonight. It was one of those things, we were trying to get them going, kept putting them out there and were hoping they'd find some life, but some of the guys were just ... they were lackadaisical tonight. They weren't going hard; last weekend they were."

A bright spot for Austin was the play of goalie Klayton Knapp. The Waterville, Ohio, native stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced, but dropped to 3-2-1 this season, despite allowing more than two goals in just one of those six games — and that was on Nov. 6 against St. Cloud, a game in which Knapp allowed three goals.

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Knapp stopped 10 shots in the first period Friday, then 11 in each of the final two periods, allowing just one even-strength goal, to David Grosek midway through the second perod. He also surrendered a power-play goal to Kyle Gaffney at 9:55 of the third to make it a 2-0 Wings lead. Aberdeen added an empty-net goal in the third by Cade Neilson, the reigning NAHL Forward of the Month.

Knapp did shut down the Wings (12-10-1 overall) on two breakaways. The first came with 4:11 to play in the second period, when the Wings connected on a long stretch pass just seconds after Ronan Walsh came out of the penalty box, but Knapp made a shoulder save to keep the score 1-0 at the time. The second breakaway he stopped came with 8:37 to play in the third, when he turned away a Jacob Bosse shot while the Bruins were on a power play.

"He's giving us a chance to win. That's the bottom line," Howard said.

Bruins add another skilled forward

Though the outcome wasn't what the Bruins hoped for on Friday, they did get to look at the newest player to join the team.

Forward Anthony Menghini played in his first game as a Bruin on his 19th birthday, after joining the team this week.

The left-shot forward was let go by Des Moines in the USHL and went unclaimed by other USHL clubs. The speedy and skilled Brainerd native had signed a tender last year to play the 2021-22 season with the Bruins, but he made Des Moines' roster out of training camp. Menghini, who goes 5-feet-10, 185 pounds, had three points in 16 games with the Buccaneers.

He didn't crack the scoresheet in his Bruins' debut, but he made his presence felt on multiple occasions by using his speed to get to the net. Early in the third period, with Austin still trailing just 1-0, Menghini turned a 1-on-2 zone-entry into a 2-on-2 by hustling into the play and driving to the net. He nearly scored on a re-direct of a nice pass from the left half wall by linemate Sutter Muzzatti.

Menghini played at Brainerd High School in 2018-19, recording 10 goals and 23 points in 28 games. He played the next two seasons at Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria, finishing his time there with 80 goals and 160 points.

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"He brought energy tonight," Howard said. "He has that energy but unfortunately his linemates weren't very good, and when your best guys -- our best guys, I'm talking about our top scorers -- when they're not playing well, it's ... you're in for a long night. We had some chances early, but we got away from that in the second period and they pinned us down.

"Aberdeen's plan was to let us make mistakes. They played our game against us. We didn't execute and they did."

PB's 3 Stars

1. Greg Orosz, Aberdeen: The native of Gyor, Hungary, earned his first NAHL shutout by stopping all 33 shots he faced.

2. Cade Neilson, Aberdeen: The reigning North American Hockey League Forward of the Month had a goal and an assist Friday. He assisted on Kyle Gaffney's power-play goal midway through the third, then added an empty-net goal with 3:07 to play to seal the victory.

3. Klayton Knapp, Austin: The Bruins' goalie did all he could to keep his team in the game, making 33 saves. Knapp is 3-2-1 this season and has allowed more than two goals in a game just one time.

Box Score

ABERDEEN WINGS 3, AUSTIN BRUINS 0

Aberdeen 0-1-2 — 3

Austin 0-0-0 — 0

First period — no scoring. Second period — 1. ABD, David Grosek 1 (unassisted) 12:19. Third period — 2. ABD, Kyle Gaffney 3 (Cade Neilson 25, Will Gilson 7) 9:55 (pp). 3. ABD, Neilson 12 (unassisted) 16:53 (en).

Shots on goal — ABD 10-12-13—35; AUST 13-6-14—33. Goalies — ABD, Greg Orosz (W, 2-3-0; 33 saves-33 shots); AUST, Klayton Knapp (L, 3-2-1; 32 saves-34 shots). Penalties — ABD, 10-62 minutes; AUST, 8-40 minutes. Power-play opportunities — ABD, 1-for-4; AUST, 0-for-5.

Related Topics: HOCKEYNAHL
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