MASON CITY, Iowa – The fight against cancer was by far the most important fight of the weekend for the North Iowa Bulls and Granite City Lumberjacks. However, the fight for four points in the NA3HL West Division standings simply cannot be ignored.
North Iowa picked up the first two points on Friday night, but the teams had to settle for a weekend split, thanks to a 4-1 win on Saturday for the Granite City Lumberjacks, ending the Bulls’ season-long six-game winning streak and once again evening up the season series.
The game began in the exact opposite fashion as it did in Friday’s 5-4 affair – the Bulls and Lumberjacks combined for five goals in the opening 20 minutes in the first game of the weekend, but the second game started with a scoreless first period. Just 39 seconds out of the break, Carson Simon fired a shot in stride from the left wing, beating Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./North Iowa Bulls) on his glove side for the 1-0 lead.
The goals came fast and furious for the visitors, adding on at 2:14 of the second period. After an initial shot from the left side, Troy Dahlheimer was waiting on the back post to put away a pass from Josh Baker and push the lead to 2-0. The momentum truly fell into the Lumberjacks’ hands at 5:08 of the period, when Daymin Dodge tipped in Simon’s toss to the North Iowa net for a 3-0 lead.
The Bulls would go to the third period trailing by three, but undeterred. At 5:07 of the final period, Nick Bowlin (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) was able to tip in a chance on an initial shot from Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) from the left wing, cutting the lead to 3-1.
North Iowa needed an additional goal to truly grab the momentum back, but the final word went to the Lumberjacks – with 1:39 on the third-period clock and a holding penalty pending on Callahan Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./Phoenix Jr. Coyotes), Nick Plautz banged in a rebound on the right post, and Granite City put an exclamation mark on its final trip to the “Barn.”
“We were down early, and it was tough to get the offense going,” said Bowlin. “We had some shots, but we weren’t burying our chances, especially on the power play, and we couldn’t stay out of the box. We weren’t helping our cause there.”
Dodge and Simon each had an assist to go with their goals, for the only multi-point games of the night. Nate Johnston remained unbeaten for the year, moving to 9-0 with 22 saves for Granite City. Skinner took the loss with 26 saves, allowing four Lumberjack goals for the second straight night.
The loss brought a bitter end to an otherwise sweet weekend, with the Bulls auctioning off their set of specialty jerseys after the game to benefit the American Cancer Society. The fight is as personal as it gets for North Iowa forward Ryan Hempel (Katy, Texas/Elliot Lake Wildcats), who is a three-year cancer survivor.
Hempel played four games for the St. Louis Jr. Blues during the 2016-17 season before an apparent back injury forced him off the ice. That injury turned out to be a tumor in his spine, leading doctors to diagnose him with extraskeletal mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer.
“It’s great to help out everybody (in the fight) that needs it,” said Hempel. “Raising money for such a huge fight is something that everybody tries to get behind, and tries to do as much as they can.”
Power play chances were not hard to find for either side in Saturday’s game, with the Bulls picking up a goal on their six chances. Granite City was 1-for-8 on the power play, including three 5-on-3 situations.
The Bulls return to the road on Wednesday evening for a pre-Thanksgiving date with the Willmar WarHawks, while the “Barn” will host its second-to-last junior hockey game on Black Friday as New Ulm visits Mason City. That game, featuring the Bulls’ annual Teddy Bear Toss, is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey is always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase advance tickets to future Bulls home games, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
Granite City 0 3 1 – 4
North Iowa 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Spetz Gcy (checking from behind-minor), 9:55; Sullivan Nio (tripping-minor), 10:54.
2nd Period-1, Granite City, Simon 13 (Dodge), 0:39. 2, Granite City, Dahlheimer 4 (Baker, Johnson), 2:14. 3, Granite City, Dodge 12 (Simon, Helle), 5:08 (PP). Penalties-Stewart Nio (tripping-minor), 3:12; Isogai Nio (tripping-minor), 4:34; Stewart Nio (cross checking-minor), 17:52; Sullivan Nio (cross checking-minor), 18:45; Pogue Gcy (hooking-minor), 19:49; Nauss Nio (checking from behind-minor), 19:49.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Bowlin 6 (Dahlseide, Saltness), 5:07 (PP). 5, Granite City, Plautz 1 (Green), 18:21. Penalties-Spetz Gcy (roughing-minor), 1:28; Fagerlee Nio (roughing-minor), 1:28; Roitman Nio (tripping-minor), 1:33; Helle Gcy (hooking-minor), 2:49; Pogue Gcy (high sticking-minor), 4:20; Johnson Gcy (cross checking-minor), 6:57; Dahlheimer Gcy (tripping-minor), 10:29; Fagerlee Nio (checking from behind-minor), 10:47; Wahlin Nio (kneeing-minor), 12:14; Sommers Gcy (hooking-minor), 14:48; Nauss Nio (holding-minor), 18:21.
Shots on Goal-Granite City 6-13-11-30. North Iowa 8-5-10-23.
Power Play Opportunities-Granite City 1 / 8; North Iowa 1 / 6.
Goalies-Granite City, Johnston 9-0-0-0 (23 shots-22 saves). North Iowa, Skinner 7-1-1-0 (30 shots-26 saves).
Linesmen-Aaron Mostrom, Travis Neubeck.