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Jacks Strike First in Battle of League Heavyweights

Post Game Report 2-3

GAME BOXSCORE

MASON CITY, Iowa – Games between the Granite City Lumberjacks and North Iowa Bulls are usually known as grind-’em-out matchups featuring stellar goaltending, where every goal counts in a big way. Every goal certainly counted in Granite City’s 7-5 win over the Bulls on Friday night in “The Barn,” but goals and scoring chances weren’t particularly at a premium in this matchup. The 12 goals scored between the two teams were the most in a meeting of the former West Division frontrunners since a 9-5 Bulls win in the deciding game of the 2014 West Division finals.

Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) got the scoring started with a sharp-angle shot from deep down the left wing at the 5:44 mark of the first period, and Horka Sekesi (Munich, Germany/Granite City Lumberjacks) made it a 2-0 game with a goal against his old mates less than three minutes later.

Long rebounds weren’t too kind to Brady Meyers (Rochester, Minn./Austin Bruins) in net, though, with Andrej Jamnicky cutting into the lead at 9:34 of the opening period and Keenan Lund eliminating the lead just 93 seconds later. Todd Sanden’s team almost got out of the first period with a tie game, but a right-point blast from Ben Haugo bounced back out to the faceoff circle to Meyers’s right, where Matthew Sprink was waiting to bang in the rebound with just six seconds to go to the intermission.

The ‘Jacks weren’t done – a quick shot from Brady Dahl off of a faceoff in the North Iowa end dribbled off of Meyers out in front for Lund, who tapped it into the net for a 4-2 game at 3:12 of the second period. Just 49 seconds later, the lead went to 5-2 on Chase di Bari’s five-hole push-in, despite a step-for-step chase down the right wing from Marshall Tschida (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury H.S.).

The Bulls weren’t about to quit – Tyler Bump‘s (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) goal at 8:38 of the second period was one of the niftiest, if not most complicated North Iowa goals of 2017. Bump wrapped the puck around the net behind David Mulligan, danced around an attempted hip-check from Sprink before backing out of the slot and whipping the puck into the net. Braden Altena’s goal at 12:38 of the second, though, pushed the lead to 6-3 with a period to go.

There was certain life for the Bulls after Mike Lyons‘s (Wheaton, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) point laser at 3:15 of the third stanza, but Sprink put their backs firmly against the wall with another rebound tap-in with just 2:30 to go. Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) got the home team a bit closer with 1:23 remaining, juggling one into the net off of a Mulligan rebound. At 7-5, though, the hole was too big to climb out of with too little time left on the clock.

Two Bulls newcomers picked up assists in Friday’s contest – Tom Reilly (Maplewood, Minn./River Falls Renegades) notched an assist on Sekesi’s goal in the first period, and Braxton Collins (Eau Claire, Wis./Coulee Region Chill) put up a pair of assists in his NA3HL debut.

The loss puts North Iowa in rare territory – the last time North Iowa lost to the Lumberjacks on home ice was Nov. 12, 2012 in a shootout, and the last regulation home loss against Granite City was a 4-3 decision on Jan. 6, 2012, in the team’s inaugural NA3HL season.

Back-to-back home losses are also a rarity in the North Iowa hockey annals, with the last set of back-to-back losses at the “Madhouse in Mason City” coming in January of 2015 against the Twin City Steel and the Alexandria Blizzard. Back-to-back regulation home losses? You’ll have to go back to the very first two home games in franchise history for those, a pair of 60-minute losses to Peoria and Granite City.

Meyers made just 17 saves on 24 Lumberjacks shots, taking the loss and dropping to 9-4-2 for the year. Mulligan’s top-five goals-against average took a hit, but his 24 saves on the Bulls’ 29 shots were enough to push his record to 9-2-3 for the season.

North Iowa returns to the North Iowa Ice Arena on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. grudge match against the Lumberjacks. The Bulls’ specialty jerseys will be auctioned off following the game to benefit My Happy Place in Mason City. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed live on Mixlr.

 

Photo used with permission of Jared Patterson/Globe Gazette