MASON CITY, Iowa – The rivalry between the Austin Bruins and North Iowa Bulls continues to heat up despite the frigid temperatures outside. The Bruins ground their way to a 3-1 win over the Bulls Friday night at the Mason City Arena, scoring two of their three in the final period and earning their fourth win in the last five head-to-head meetings.
The Bruins controlled the pace early, firing off the game’s first six shots and 12 of the 13 total in the opening 20 minutes, but the teams took a scoreless tie to the first intermission. The Bulls got their first shot on the net 14 minutes into the contest, with an unsuccessful backdoor chance from Michael Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Honeybaked 16U).
North Iowa played even with their visitors in the second, but Austin gained the lead first at 3:13 of the second, when Jens Richards split a pair of North Iowa defenders coming through the left-wing circle and played the puck out front for Ocean Wallace. His one-timer popped into the top corner of the net, giving the Bruins the first lead of the night.
The Bulls made sure the lead wouldn’t last, as Byron Hartley’s (Philadelphia, Pa./Philly Little Flyers 18U) toss toward the net at 9:35 of the period deflected off of a defender in front of the net, banking past goaltender Ethan Robertson to tie the game at 1-1.
The game slowly heated up before coming to a boil with 4:57 left in the period, when Therien Thiesing came from the Bruins’ half of the ice to initiate a collision with the Bulls’ Ryder Brophy (Franklin, Pa./Esmark Stars 18U) in the North Iowa zone after Isaak Brassard was knocked to the ice in the neutral zone. The two immediately squared off, with Brophy taking a game misconduct for his role in the altercation and Thiesing taking a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct.
The Bulls killed off Austin’s first two power plays, but the Bruins would strike on the third, after a high-sticking call against North Iowa’s Luke Baker (Dana Point, Calif./Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18U) – at 6:04 of the third period, John Larkin’s shot from the top of the slot bounced off of Jens Richards and into the net, beating Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) to regain the 2-1 advantage for Austin.
The final stanza featured a pair of skirmishes of its own, including a game-ending fight for Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) and Liam Whitehouse with just 5:03 remaining, but the only score would come with 8.1 seconds remaining, when Anthony Menghini jogged the puck down to the Bulls’ end, depositing it into the empty net for the game’s final score.
“I’m happy with my play, but we could’ve at least gotten it to overtime, if not won the game,” said Garvey. “They have big bodies and big frames – [Austin uses] a lot of screens, a lot of rush attacks, maybe a little contact with the goaltender. The team was playing hard, but it was a close one. Maybe the next one will come out in our favor.”
North Iowa came up empty on its four power play chances, while the Bruins earned one on their four opportunities. The Bulls came out of the game still hunting for their first power play goal of the season against Austin, earning 30 power plays over the first nine meetings between the teams. Austin’s power play marker was its eighth against the Bulls this season.
Richards and Wallace headlined the offense with a point apiece, while Mesic’s primary assist on Hartley’s goal stretched him to 36 points on the season, extending his team-best mark. Garvey made 27 saves on 29 Bruin shots, taking the loss, while Robertson made 21 saves to earn the win in his Austin debut.
North Iowa fell back to 18-16-1-4 with the loss, while the Bruins moved to 23-14-1-2 for the year, earning two critical points as they look to hold off a surging St. Cloud Norsemen group at the top of the North American Hockey League’s Central Division standings. The Bulls and Bruins collide again on Saturday night at the Riverside Arena in Austin, Minnesota. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Sponsored by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and Mixlr.
That game begins a three-game road swing for North Iowa that finishes with a return to Aberdeen next Friday and Saturday. The Bulls return to home ice February 18 and 19 against the Bismarck Bobcats. To purchase tickets for those games or any upcoming North Iowa home game, call the Bulls Ticket Line at 641-450-0914 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Austin 0 1 2 – 3
North Iowa 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Catalano Aus (roughing-minor), 11:34; Mesic Nio (roughing-minor), 11:34; Baker Nio (slashing-minor), 18:12.
2nd Period-1, Austin, Wallace 6 (Richards, Thiesing), 3:13. 2, North Iowa, Hartley 14 (Mesic, Vlasich), 9:35. Penalties-Simmons-Fischer Aus (interference-minor), 0:48; Brassard Aus (roughing-minor), 4:14; Roepke Nio (roughing-minor), 4:14; Thiesing Aus (fighting-major, fighting-10 misc), 15:03; served by Baker Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 15:03; Brophy Nio (fighting-major, aggressor-gm), 15:03; Jasenec Aus (roughing-minor), 17:39.
3rd Period-3, Austin, Richards 14 (Larkin, Wallace), 6:04 (PP). 4, Austin, Menghini 8 (Malinski), 19:52 (EN). Penalties-Baker Nio (high sticking-minor), 4:49; Tafelski Aus (hooking-minor), 7:15; Malinski Aus (roughing-minor), 12:47; Campion Nio (roughing-minor), 12:47; Whitehouse Aus (fighting-major, fighting-10 misc), 14:57; Dombrowsky Nio (fighting-major, fighting-10 misc), 14:57; Salani Aus (high sticking-minor), 15:16; Mexico Nio (high sticking-minor), 15:29.
Shots on Goal-Austin 12-12-6-30. North Iowa 1-12-9-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Austin 1 / 4; North Iowa 0 / 4.
Goalies-Austin, Robertson 4-3-0-0 (22 shots-21 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 13-12-1-4 (29 shots-27 saves).
Linesmen-Reilly Hickey, J. Morrison.