Post Game Report 3-3
MASON CITY, Iowa – The NA3HL’s Central Division champions welcomed the Midwest Division champs to the North Iowa Ice Arena Friday night knowing they’d need a fast start and expecting that special teams would play a major factor in the outcome of the game. The North Iowa Bulls never trailed, and picked up two special-teams goals in a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Jr. Blues, clinching no worse than a split in the teams’ four-game season series for the year with one meeting to go.
The lead in the first period was all too brief – North Iowa drew first blood with just 5:46 to go in the first period with a power-play tally. After going 43 games without a goal, Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) ripped a one-timer from the top of the slot off of a right-wing feed from Nick Klishko (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) for his first goal of the year.
Just one minute later, that lead was gone, after a Daniil Ovchinnikov tap-in from in front of Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) and the game went to the first intermission in a 1-all tie.
“It’s kind of a relief to get the monkey off my back,” said Bernhardson. “It’s been almost a year since I scored, so it’s a relief and it was a good momentum boost for the team early on in the game.”
Connor Clemons‘s (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) interference infraction in the opening minute of the second period set the Bulls up for their next special-teams tally – Owen Larson (Minneapolis, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) nabbed a St. Louis turnover with some help from Mike Lyons (Aurora, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) and carried it the other way, sliding one in off of a double-deke at 1:54 of the period. That lead held up for almost the entire second period, before Jack Hatton’s sharp-angle equalizer with 4:02 to go and the net coming off the moorings put an end to another North Iowa lead.
The eventual game-winner set up a major momentum swing heading to the second intermission – with just four seconds left before the 40-minute mark, a left-wing blast from Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./Soo Eagles) was kicked out right to Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls), who was all too ready to bat in the rebound. That goal put the home team ahead 3-2 with just 20 minutes to play.
Two uncontested goals brought the Bulls crowd to its feet early in the third period to finish off St. Louis. Tom Reilly (Maplewood, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) sent a laser past Hunter Smith into the top of the net with just 3:45 off the clock in the third period. At the 5:31 mark, the job was finished thanks to Tyler Bump‘s (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) breakaway goal, set up by a toss ahead from Larson. It was Bump’s third straight game with a goal, and it finished off a six-minute scoring rush that put the Bulls ahead for good.
“You live to play in these games,” said Mallonee. “It’s so fun at home, and the crowd was electric. We played our hearts out tonight. This is our fourth win in a row now, so we’re on a bit of a roll. Hopefully we can finish them off tomorrow and keep the ball rolling.”
Scites finished the night with 25 saves, putting him on a four-game winning streak and giving North Iowa its first win this year in a game where they have been out-shot by an opponent. It’s not just North Iowa’s fourth win in a row, it’s also their seventh straight game with at least one point in the standings. Larson and Bernhardson each finished the night with a goal and an assist.
The Bulls and Jr. Blues will get back together Saturday night, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at the North Iowa Ice Arena. The broadcast on HockeyTV and Mixlr with Austin Draude begins at 7:15. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed for free on Mixlr.