The North Iowa Bulls opened their defense of the 2013 Tier III Junior National Championship on the road against their biggest rival, the Granite City Lumberjacks, the team they defeated in OT in the semi-final game of the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship Tournament last spring. The Bulls were certainly facing a daunting task.
The first period opened with solid play from both sides as the Lumberjacks tried to capitalize on the home-ice advantage while the Bulls relied on their veteran core to withstand the attacks and counterpunch when opportunities arose. Both goalies made some solid saves from point blank range until Chris Howard netted the first goal of the season with Logan Murphy getting the helper. The lead would not last however, as Granite City would tie the game less than 30 seconds later. The Bulls would not be fazed and when rookie forward Peter Henderson scored to make it 2-1 under 2 minutes after the 'Jacks had tied it you knew the Bulls were picking up right where they left off. North Iowa would hold the lead and take a 2-1 edge to the first intermission.
The Bulls would extend the lead early in the second period on Henderson's second tally of the game, this one a powerplay marker. Granite City would battle back and add a marker of their own to make the game 3-2 less than 4 minutes later and the teams would remain that way heading to the third and final frame.
North Iowa withstood a Lumberjacks attack early in the third period and were able to add an insurance marker about midway through the frame when Austin Jackson notched his first of the campaign. The Bulls and their veteran defensive corp would shut down the 'Jacks the rest of the way and Taylor Brown would add an empty-netter in the final minute of the period to seal the victory on the evening.
The Bulls and Lumberjacks will be back at it on Saturday, September 14th at 7:30pm. Stay tuned to the Bulls social media sites (Facebook/Twitter) for period-by-period updates and the website for a full recap of the game. Go Bulls!