MASON CITY, Iowa – It may be early in the season, but North Iowa and Alexandria found themselves chasing two critical points in the NA3HL West Division standings Friday night. The winner was poised to take sole possession of third place in the West Division standings as the season approaches the one-third mark.
The team now sitting in third place is Todd Sanden’s Bulls, who won their fourth straight game with a 5-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard and moved to 9-5-0-0 on the season. Alexandria dropped to 8-6-0-0 with the loss. With the win, the Bulls also pick up their 10th win over Alexandria in their last 11 meetings, dating back to January of 2015.
It was Alexandria who scored the opening goal of the night, though, with Caleb Strong putting the visitors on top just 5:30 into the game. Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) became the first North Iowa player to hit the 10-goal mark this season, tying the game at 12:13 of the period. The goal was also his fourth power-play tally of the year, with time almost out on Strong’s holding minor.
Just like Marco Escobar‘s (Plainfield, Ill./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) goal at the end of the first period last Saturday, the Bulls put one on the board in the final seconds before the break. This time it was Zachary Simon (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) notching his first goal of the year, and giving his team a 2-1 lead.
Joe Dokken briefly tied the game early in the second period, but Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) responded quickly with a goal of his own to take a 3-2 lead. Studioso’s goal at 5:12 of the period broke the two-all tie after just 62 seconds.
Verstegen went to work yet again on the power play in the third period, with Brett Meister landing in the penalty box on a two-minute interference infraction. Just nine seconds after the man-advantage started, Verstegen abruptly ended it with his second goal of the night, giving the Bulls a 4-2 lead with 9:25 remaining.
The night’s final power play chance also belonged to North Iowa, but it was Alexandria who took advantage, on a shorthanded Brandon Connett goal with 5:17 remaining. Jonathan TerWisscha evacuated the net in the final seconds to give the Blizzard an extra skater, but Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) iced the game with 29 seconds left on an empty-netter against his former team.
While Verstegen had the two big special-teams goals for North Iowa, Dahlseide had the overall big scoring night with a goal and a couple of assists. Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) had a couple of helpers of his own, pushing his run to 10 points over an active four-game point streak.
Connor Poczos (Austin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) returned from his three-game emergency call-up to the Sioux City Musketeers with a win, making 21 saves and bumping his record to 4-0-0-0 on the season. TerWisscha made 28 saves and dropped to 1-1-0-0 with the loss.
For the sixth game in a row, North Iowa pounded in at least one power play goal, giving the Bulls a goal on 12 of their last 26 chances. Just as importantly, Alexandria went 0-for-4 with the extra man in the game – Sanden’s team has killed off its last nine penalties in a row heading into Saturday night’s rematch.
The Bulls and Blizzard meet again as North Iowa finishes its “Pink the Rink” weekend, with a Postgame Skate With the Bulls and a jersey auction to benefit the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The opening puck drop at the North Iowa Ice Arena is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Alexandria 1 1 1 – 3
North Iowa 2 1 2 – 5
1st Period-1, Alexandria, Strong 6 (Giorgio, Meister), 5:30. 2, North Iowa, Verstegen 10 (Dahlseide, Fagerlee), 12:13 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Simon 1 (Taraszewski, Bowlin), 19:46. Penalties-Strong Alx (holding-minor), 10:20; McDermott Nio (boarding-minor), 16:13.
2nd Period-4, Alexandria, Dokken 7 (Rieland), 4:10. 5, North Iowa, Studioso 8 (Brandt, McDermott), 5:12. Penalties-Meister Alx (slashing-minor), 15:38; Bogach Nio (hooking-minor), 16:01; Escobar Nio (tripping-minor), 18:55.
3rd Period-6, North Iowa, Verstegen 11 (Fagerlee, Dahlseide), 10:35 (PP). 7, Alexandria, Connett 5 (Hoffman, Lehmann), 14:43 (SH). 8, North Iowa, Dahlseide 8 (McDermott, Junker), 19:31 (EN). Penalties-Rieland Alx (interference-minor), 1:47; Meister Alx (interference-minor), 10:26; Fagerlee Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 10:35; Rieland Alx (head contact-minor), 14:17.
Shots on Goal-Alexandria 7-11-6-24. North Iowa 11-13-9-33.
Power Play Opportunities-Alexandria 0 / 4; North Iowa 2 / 5.
Goalies-Alexandria, TerWisscha 1-1-0-0 (32 shots-28 saves). North Iowa, Poczos 4-0-0-0 (24 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Peter Jenkin, Grant Crowell.