MASON CITY, Iowa – In front of the North Iowa Bulls’ largest crowd since the opening weekend at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, there was absolutely no love lost in a Valentine’s date between the Bulls and the St. Louis Jr. Blues.
The two teams spent all night playing the body and scrapping for every advantage, and a few scraps between the teams was a given. In the end, North Iowa fought off a pair of quick St. Louis scoring strikes for a 6-4 victory, putting the Bulls back in front of Granite City for first place in the NA3HL’s West Division.
The Jr. Blues came in with a shutout streak nearing 200 minutes, but Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) showed his lack of concern for their run with a wrist shot to the top corner of the net just 32 seconds into the game. Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) tacked on a goal of his own with a shot from the right wing at the 12:44 mark for a 2-0 lead.
The visitors came out hot to start the second period, though – a penalty on Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) with just 16 seconds to go in the first period put the Jr. Blues on the power play going into the second, and a shot from the left-wing faceoff dot from Clayton Dawe beat Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) just 50 seconds out of the break to cut the lead to 2-1.
The lead evaporated at the 3:30 mark of the period, when Jacob Wiethaupt redirected a heave toward the net from Joey Boccardi, bouncing in the tying goal.
After that, the Bulls made their move on the power play – with just five seconds left on a too-many-men penalty on St. Louis, Roo rang one in from the left-wing circle, catching the inside of the post on its way to the back of the net for a 3-2 lead with 12:30 left in the period.
“We had a power play, so we knew we needed to capitalize,” said Roo. “It was a good pass from Cam (Fagerlee), so we capitalized and we got the momentum to keep going.”
A cross-check from Joey Solimando on Dalton Saltness (Forest Lake, Minn./Forest Lake H.S.) at the end of the play started a brief round of extracurricular activity behind the net, and the Bulls hit the reset button for a brand-new man-advantage. With four seconds left on the second power play, Roo again ripped one past Will Oliver from the left circle, off of a feed from Joey Petronack (White Bear Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), for his third goal of the night.
Already up 4-2, the Bulls struck once more with time winding down in the second, on a Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./Jamestown Rebels) toss at the bottom of the faceoff circle. With 41 seconds remaining in the period, his first goal of the game beat Oliver to make it 5-2 going to the final stanza.
There would be more from Eha, but it would have to wait – a snipe from Van Kraemer snuck into the upper corner over Babekuhl’s left shoulder to trim the advantage to 5-3 with 10:31 left, and Pavel Kopytin snapped one past Babekuhl just 20 seconds later to halve the lead.
For the Bulls and their fans, it seemed the clock simply couldn’t tick quickly enough, but an interference minor to Lucas Gudz sealed their fate with 1:48 to go. Down a man and a goal, Oliver headed to the bench in the game’s final minute to even the manpower, but Eha filled up the empty net from just inside the blue line with 31 seconds to play to seal the victory.
The win is North Iowa’s fifth straight on home ice against the Jr. Blues, and fifth straight in the overall head-to-head series. Eha finished with two goals and two assists in support of Roo’s hat trick, while Nico Aguilera (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South H.S.) and Nick Bowlin (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) finished with two assists each. Valentin Tarasenko and Trey Walton had two assists apiece to lead the St. Louis attack.
Babekuhl exited the game after the Jr. Blues’ final goal of the night, but earned the win regardless on his 23 saves. Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./Blaine H.S.) picked up the “save,” finishing with a perfect 6-for-6 mark in net. Oliver took the loss, making 25 saves on 30 North Iowa chances.
With the victory and Granite City’s loss to the Alexandria Blizzard, the Bulls took back a percentage-points lead in the West Division standings – each team has 64 points, but North Iowa maintains a game in hand on the Lumberjacks.
The same teams get together again on Saturday night, as North Iowa hosts “Hometown Heroes” Night at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., 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 any upcoming Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
St. Louis 0 2 2 – 4
North Iowa 2 3 1 – 6
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Dahlseide 20 (Stewart), 0:32. 2, North Iowa, Roo 19 (Eha, Aguilera), 12:44. Penalties-Petronack Nio (tripping-minor), 2:48; Sullivan Nio (cross checking-minor), 6:16; Fagerlee Nio (interference-minor), 19:44.
2nd Period-3, St. Louis, Dawe 10 (Walton, Tarasenko), 0:50 (PP). 4, St. Louis, Wiethaupt 28 (Boccardi, Hofstetter), 3:30. 5, North Iowa, Roo 20 (Fagerlee, Eha), 7:30 (PP). 6, North Iowa, Roo 21 (Petronack, Sullivan), 9:26 (PP). 7, North Iowa, Eha 7 (Aguilera, Bowlin), 19:19. Penalties-served by Radley Stl (too many men-minor), 5:35; Solimando Stl (cross checking-minor), 7:30; Wiethaupt Stl (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 8:35; Wagner Nio (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 8:35; Dawe Stl (unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 9:26; Kopytin Stl (holding-minor), 15:32.
3rd Period-8, St. Louis, Kraemer 10 (Walton, Stevenson), 9:29. 9, St. Louis, Kopytin 2 (Kovalenko, Tarasenko), 9:50. 10, North Iowa, Eha 8 (Bowlin), 19:29 (PP EN). Penalties-Solimando Stl (head contact-major, head contact-gm), 2:03; Gudz Stl (interference-minor), 18:12.
Shots on Goal-St. Louis 13-9-11-33. North Iowa 10-10-11-31.
Power Play Opportunities-St. Louis 1 / 3; North Iowa 3 / 5.
Goalies-St. Louis, Oliver 9-6-0-0 (30 shots-25 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 12-2-0-0 (27 shots-23 saves); Daninger 8-2-0-0 (6 shots-6 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Nicholas Seppala.