Post Game Report 1-27
MASON CITY, Iowa – In North Iowa’s six-year history, the Bulls have come close every year, but never swept a season series against the New Ulm Steel.
They won’t this year, either.
In fact, the Bulls are just a road loss away from splitting the season series right down the middle with the Steel, something they’ve also never done in their six years in the NA3HL. A 6-4 loss on Friday night puts the season series at 2-1 in favor of the Central Division leaders, on a night where the home team led for all of three minutes.
The opening goal went to the visitors at the 3:39 mark of the first period, on Nicholas Campbell’s seventh goal of the year. The lead disappeared five minutes later as Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) shoveled a power-play tally into the net at the top of the goal crease, after a feed from Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) out of the corner. It returned at 11:11 of the period following a power-play tally from Sam Wenner, and Alex Nagel added some insurance with just 3:16 left before the first intermission.
The Bulls got a quick surge in the second period after Bump’s quick walk into the slot from the right-wing wall – a face-and-fire goal dropped the lead to a goal at 6:43 of the stanza, and just 80 seconds later, the lead was gone after Mitch Parsons‘s (Grandville, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) fall into the net after a wraparound try from Horka Sekesi (Munich, Germany/Granite City Lumberjacks).
Bennett Witta’s cross-checking infraction with just two seconds left on the second-period clock set the Bulls up well to take the lead – Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) and Clemons each got shots on Nathan Siclovan in a flurry with the penalty clock winding down, but the final rebound went to Sekesi, who put it away at 1:38 of the third for his first goal in a North Iowa uniform.
By 4:35 of the period, though, the lead was gone again – Fritz Belisle led a crowded footrace into the North Iowa end and ripped one past Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) for a 4-4 tie, and the final push was on for the Steel. Nagel buried the eventual game-winner with a peek-a-boo shot from the left faceoff circle with 10:01 to play, leaning around Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to fire off the fateful shot. An empty-net tally for Belisle with 16 seconds left sealed the deal and gave New Ulm its first win over the Bulls since their move to south-central Minnesota last summer.
Scites took the loss, dropping him back to 1-2-0 for the season with 24 saves on 29 New Ulm shots. Siclovan stopped 28 of the 32 North Iowa shots against him to move his record to 12-7-1 for the year. North Iowa is 26-6-1 after the loss, but is only 11-6-1 without counting its 15-game winning streak that began with the home opener on Sept. 30. With Friday’s loss, their 21-game home winning streak (including two playoff games) comes to an end – incidentally, that last home loss also came against the Steel, on Feb. 5 of last year with a 5-4 overtime defeat.
The magic number for North Iowa’s Central Division championship continues to shrink, though, hitting just four points after La Crosse’s loss to Willmar on Friday. A Bulls win on Saturday would wrap up home-ice advantage in the first round of the Silver Cup Playoffs, and a La Crosse regulation loss to Rochester on Sunday would officially seal North Iowa’s fifth division title in a row. North Iowa will look to take care of its end of the bargain Saturday night, with the opening faceoff in New Ulm, Minn. set for 7:10 p.m. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – all home games and selected road games are also audio-streamed live on Mixlr.