ROMEOVILLE, Ill. – North Iowa’s championship-game loss to Granite City in the 2015 NA3HL Silver Cup championship game ended a 10-game winning streak for the Bulls at the league’s premier event. Todd Sanden and his team are hoping Wednesday night’s game against the Yellowstone Quake will be the start of a new winning streak, after posting a 6-2 win over a team that is brand-new to the league’s biggest stage.
A slow start gave the Quake the opening advantage, with Nicholas Elliott getting the opening goal just 2:23 in on a sharp-angle backhand shot low in the Bulls’ zone. Yellowstone’s only lead of the game would last just 15 seconds, after a clearing attempt around the end boards found Carmen Dalesandro (Cannonsburg, Penn./North Iowa Bulls) in the neutral zone. A 2-on-1 break would lead to a cross-slot pass to Kohei Sato (Nishitokio, Japan/North Iowa Bulls), who wristed one home to tie the game at the 2:38 mark of the game. Sato’s goal at 9:31 gave North Iowa its first lead of the game, thanks to a weak-side tip-in on the right doorstep with Quake goalie Garret Matz committed to a play to his left. That lead would stand for just under five minutes, thanks to a rebound goal from Reed Kelly with 5:31 showing on the first-period clock. North Iowa goalie Tommi Ahlgren (Tampere, Finland/North Iowa Bulls) brushed aside a Tony Dahlberg attempt with a man draped on him, but a backside rebound went to Kelly, who put it away for the tying goal.
It took until the second period for North Iowa to hop into the driver’s seat and take control of the game, when Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./Academy of Holy Angels) brushed a pass from the right-wing wall to Brett Gravelle (Forest Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) in space in the middle of the Yellowstone slot. With three defenders nearby but none in the shooting or passing lanes, Gravelle whipped a wrist shot at the net and beat Matz over the shoulder for the go-ahead goal at 5:55 of the period. The power-play units wouldn’t get involved until the second period, but man-advantages on a Tristan Henrichs check from behind and a Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./Everett Silvertips) trip would go unrewarded going to the second intermission.
After a slow start to the game, North Iowa came out firing in the third. Austin Jackson (Waterloo, Iowa/Minnesota Magicians) shoveled in a loose puck on the edge of the crease to Matz’s left just 1:09 into the final stanza to give the Bulls their first power play of the game. The Connor Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) show started at the 11:18 mark, when Bump fired in a long-distance shot from the top of the left faceoff circle and into open space off of Matz’s glove side for a 5-2 lead. That goal would give the league’s regular-season champs their only power-play tally of the year, as part of a 1-for-3 night on the man-advantage. The lead went to its final 6-2 tally with 6:02 remaining thanks to Bump’s face-and-fire shot above the right faceoff circle.
After a shaky start, Ahlgren settled in to make 24 saves on 26 Yellowstone shots. Matz took the loss despite making 42 saves in the contest, and the Yellowstone power play ended the evening with an 0-for-2 finish. The Bulls will have a chance to turn their victory into a winning streak Thursday night with a second straight game against a Frontier Division opponent as they take on the Great Falls Americans. That game is set for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff on Rink 1 at Canlan Ice Sports in Romeoville, Illinois.
– Yellowstone went worst-to-first in the 2015-16 season, finishing the ’14-’15 campaign with just eight wins. This season, they won 35 and lost only nine in regulation.
– This isn’t even the first game in the 2016 postseason that Connor Bump has put two goals in the back of the net in the same period. Bump fired two in against Kyle Plantz in the opening period of the Bulls’ 12-3 rout of Rochester in this year’s Central Division semifinals.
– The win runs the Bulls to 3-0 all-time against Frontier Division opponents. They defeated Great Falls 6-1 in the final pool-play game of last year’s Silver Cup tournament.