Post Game Report 3-10
MASON CITY, Iowa – The first North Iowa Bulls lead on Friday night didn’t come until halfway through the second period, and it didn’t quite last three minutes. The next time North Iowa took the lead, the fans at “The Barn” had barely settled back into their seats for the third period…and that lead never disappeared.
The Bulls notched a 3-2 win over the visiting Peoria Mustangs to eclipse the 70-point mark for the season and pick up their 34th win of the season with two games to go. It also denied the Mustangs two critical points in their race with the Nashville Jr. Predators for first-round home-ice advantage in the Midwest Division playoffs.
The opening period saw a 12-7 shots-on-goal advantage for North Iowa, but each team went into the intermission without getting a goal on the board. At 10:45 of the second period, the Bulls finally broke through thanks to a triple-deke tally from Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians). His wrist shot caught Peoria goalie J.T. Kossakowski high and trickled in for the opening goal of the night.
The lead disappeared at 13:41 of the period, though, after Brennen Begner set Jack Healy up for a rip from the middle of the North Iowa slot. Healy beat Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) inside the left edge of the net and the teams went into the intermission tied at one apiece.
Despite a late head-contact minor from Nick Klishko (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) in the second stanza, it was North Iowa that pulled ahead just 12 seconds into the third – after the Mustangs drew the puck behind their own net to start the period, Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./Dallas Stars Elite) dug it off the end wall and slipped it to Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls), who tapped it in for the go-ahead goal.
Mallonee added the insurance goal at 12:50 of the third period, thanks to a weak-side pass from Klishko. His sharp-angle shot snuck inside the right post to make it a 3-1 score. Jordan Hillman would find the back of the net with 5:23 remaining to cut the lead back to one, but a late push from Peoria would come up empty.
“In these kinds of games, it’s weird,” said Mallonee. “They fly by really fast when there’s not a lot of whistles and not a lot of things going on. It’s easy for those kinds of games to slip through your fingers and we’re happy that we took control of it in the second and third [periods] and snuck out the win there.”
The shots-on-goal margin was a tight one, with North Iowa firing 25 shots on net and Peoria managing 23. With only three penalties in the contest, and the Bulls killing off both of their penalties (plus Mallonee’s shorthanded tally in the third), the game wrapped up in a tidy two hours and four minutes. The Mustangs’ loss keeps them two points ahead of Nashville for the Midwest Division’s second-place spot, but with a night off Friday, the Jr. Predators now have a game in hand as they face the fourth-place Cincinnati Thunder.
Scites came away with his sixth win of the year thanks to 21 saves. Kossakowski dropped his record for the season to 16-12-2, with 22 saves in the loss. It’s “Sci-Fi Saturday Night” as the Bulls and Mustangs return to the ice for a rematch on Saturday at the North Iowa Ice Arena. The Bulls’ Star Wars-themed jerseys will be auctioned off following the game, to benefit the North Iowa Youth Center. The opening faceoff at the “Madhouse in Mason City” is set for 7:30 p.m., with a 7:15 warmup show on HockeyTV and Mixlr. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed on Mixlr.