BISMARCK, N.D. – As the 2021-22 North American Hockey League season reaches its home stretch, the Bismarck Bobcats are playing themselves right into the thick of the Central Division playoff race, defeating the North Iowa Bulls 6-3 on Saturday night at the V.F.W. Sports Center. North Iowa trimmed the lead to a goal twice after starting the game with a 3-0 deficit, but was never able to tie the game and complete the comeback.
The win puts Bismarck within a point of the Bulls for the fifth-place spot in the Central Division standings, while the Bulls remain just three points back of the Austin Bruins for the fourth and final playoff spot in the group.
Bismarck got the scoring started quickly, with Quinn Rudrud finding Ryan Taylor out of the right-wing corner for a pass – Taylor’s one-timer from the middle of the slot beat Kyle Kozma (Vaughan, Ontario/Minnesota Magicians) to put the Bobcats on the board first at the game’s 5:49 mark. Rudrud took care of the rest of the scoring in the opening stanza, snapping a wrist shot down the slot for a goal at 15:13 of the period and banging home a one-timer on the doorstep from Jon Ziskie with 22 seconds remaining in the period, taking the three-goal lead to the intermission.
North Iowa got the game’s initial shot on goal, with Oskar Spinnars Nordin turning away the first chance just 25 seconds off of the opening draw. After that, Bismarck jumped in the driver’s seat, reeling off the next 11 shots in a row and 13 of the next 14 before taking a 22-11 shots-on-goal advantage into the recess.
The Bulls made their move in the second period, finally finding the back of the net on a slot chance from Dylan Gajewski (Woodhaven, Mich./Austin Bruins) just shy of the game’s halfway mark to cut the Bobcat lead to 3-1.
North Iowa looked to be on the verge of completing the comeback with just 2:24 left in the period, when Tyler Braccini (Buffalo, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) whipped a shot into the back of the net with Spinnars Nordin committed to his left and caught on his side trying to stop a point-blank shot from Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./Philly Little Flyers 18U). However, just 16 seconds after the ensuing draw, Rudrud sent the hats flying with his shot from the right-wing faceoff circle that sneaked past Kozma into the top of the net.
The Bulls refused to go quietly going into the third, however – with 13:39 remaining, a shot from Jack Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) at the top of the slot banked off of Luke Roelofs and past Spinnars Nordin, putting the visitors back within a goal.
The Bobcats sealed control of the game on the power play following a tripping call against Hartley – with 8:25 remaining, Taylor’s one-timer zipped between Kozma and the post to his right, giving Taylor his second power play goal in as many games and giving his team a 5-3 lead. Jake McLean would jog the puck into the empty net with 1:42 remaining, clinching the victory for Bismarck.
Spinnars Nordin made 25 saves on 28 North Iowa chances for his seventh win in eight tries against the Bulls, while Kozma took the loss despite tying a season-high with 42 saves.
Rudrud continued a torrid scoring run with three goals and an assist, while Taylor added an assist to his two-goal haul. Ziskie had three assists, while Gajewski had a goal and an assist to highlight the offense for North Iowa. Jake LaRusso (Colts Neck, N.J./New Jersey Titans) had the only other multi-point game for the Bulls, notching a pair of helpers in the contest. Rudrud extended his point streak to six games, notching a dozen points over that stretch and 22 points since January 15.
With their final overnight road trip of the regular season now in the books, the Bulls begin the home stretch in earnest next Friday night, playing nine of their final 12 regular-season contests on home ice at the Mason City Arena. The Austin Bruins head to the River City for the first of those nine remaining home games on Friday night, with the opening puck drop slated for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and Mixlr.
Friday’s game is the Bulls’ “Reading Stampede” night to celebration National Reading Month and the NAHL’s “Read to Succeed” initiative. The team will host an in-game book exchange and raffle off a Dr. Seuss collection – fans who donate books to the exchange in advance of game day will receive $1 off their admission for each book they donate, up to a maximum discount of $5 per ticket. To purchase advance tickets to any upcoming North Iowa Bulls 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.
North Iowa 0 2 1 – 3
Bismarck 3 1 2 – 6
1st Period-1, Bismarck, Taylor 6 (Rudrud, McLean), 5:37. 2, Bismarck, Rudrud 22 (Egan, Mitchell), 15:13. 3, Bismarck, Rudrud 23 (Ziskie, Hanson), 19:38. Penalties-Johnson Bis (tripping-minor), 16:54.
2nd Period-4, North Iowa, Gajewski 16 (LaRusso, Campion), 9:52. 5, North Iowa, Braccini 4 (Hartley, Stacey), 17:36. 6, Bismarck, Rudrud 24 (Beacom, Mitchell), 17:52. Penalties-Hartley Nio (tripping-minor), 12:21; Egan Bis (roughing-minor), 19:22.
3rd Period-7, North Iowa, Mesic 9 (LaRusso, Gajewski), 6:21. 8, Bismarck, Taylor 7 (Ziskie, Johnson), 11:35 (PP). 9, Bismarck, McLean 14 (Taylor, Ziskie), 18:18 (EN). Penalties-Hartley Nio (tripping-minor), 10:07.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 11-7-10-28. Bismarck 22-13-13-48.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 2; Bismarck 1 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Kozma 7-9-2-0 (47 shots-42 saves). Bismarck, Spinnars Nordin 14-6-0-1 (28 shots-25 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Reilly Hickey.