A four-goal scoring outburst, including three in the first three minutes of the third period, helped push the North Iowa Bulls past Granite City to open the NA3HL West Division playoff finals Friday night. The Bulls and Lumberjacks finished the regular season first and second, respectively, in the division standings for the third year in a row and are meeting in the division playoff finals for the third time in four years. North Iowa got the scoring started at the 8:13 mark of the first period, thanks to a toss in front by Joe Burgmeier (Mason City, IA) – standing right on top of 'Jacks goalie Jesse Garcia, Brett Gravelle (Forest Lake, MN) found the rebound and slid it in to get the home team on the board. The insurance goal didn't wait very long to appear – just 16 seconds later, Jake Johnson (Sun Prairie, WI) took a centering pass on the doorstep and slipped it past Garcia to double the lead. North Iowa took a 2-1 lead into the second stanza after Granite City's Dallas Marvin walked in from the corner and slid one past Chris Amsden (St. Peter, MN) with 3:17 left in the first.
The game's only special-teams goal tied the game at the 3:26 mark of the second period, with Michael Orke taking a mid-slot pass just to the left of Amsden and flipping a wrister past the Bulls netminder into the upper half of the net. Most of the second period would be spent waiting for a go-ahead goal from either side – enter North Iowa defenseman Rob Click (Stillwater, MN), whose toss in front from the right point would be deflected in from the doorstep by Conor Durgan (St. Johns, MI) with 1:39 left in the period.
If that goal sprang a leak in the Lumberjacks' defenses, the dam would break early in the third – goals from Burgmeier, Sam Naegele (Coon Rapids, MN) and Ryan Durant (Waupun, WI) helped turn a 2-2 game into a 6-2 affair at the 2:29 mark of the final period. Blake Phenow picked up a loose puck low in the slot and put it high past Amsden at 12:54 of the period to finish up the scoring and send the Bulls and their 1,582 fans home happy.
Granite City not only finds itself down a game in the best-of-3 series, it extends its road losing streak to five games. North Iowa can clinch the division playoff title with a win at Granite City tomorrow night. The opening faceoff is slated for 7:30 p.m., with a free webcast on northiowabulls.com starting at 7:15.