Bulls Bounce Back, Hammer Steel 5-1

Post Game Report 1-28

NEW ULM, Minn. – After two straight exhibition losses to the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres and a frustrating home defeat at the hands of the New Ulm Steel on Friday night, there were really no two ways about it – the Bulls needed to find a way to nab a win in New Ulm on Saturday to get their mojo back heading into February. North Iowa got the two points it wanted, running away with a 5-1 victory, clinching home-ice advantage in the first round of March’s NA3HL Silver Cup Playoffs and putting it within two points of another Central Division regular-season championship.

The 623 fans in the building were almost treated to a scoreless first period – with just 31 seconds left in the first period, though, Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) led Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) over the red line into the New Ulm zone, and a nifty move to push the puck behind Mac Hankinson allowed him to slide it in underneath Nathan Siclovan for the opening goal of the game.

Mallonee picked up a second helper just 88 seconds into the second period, swinging a pass out of the corner to Connor Clemons at the edge of the slot, turning and slinging one into the net for a 2-0 lead. After Trevor Woytcke’s goal at 6:32 of the period cut the lead back to a goal, Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./Bismarck Bobcats) whipped in a wrister from the left side with 8:00 to go to the intermission, and Horka Sekesi‘s (Munich, Germany/Granite City Lumberjacks) throw to the New Ulm net was tipped in by Mitch Parsons (Grandville, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) at 13:40 to take a 4-1 lead to the break.

A thigh-high pass to Bump led to the fifth and final North Iowa goal of the night in the third period – the NAHL veteran settled the pass to his stick before turning and tossing it into the net from high in the faceoff circle to Siclovan’s right with 10:40 to go, finishing off a four-goal win.

“We didn’t play to our full ability that last game [on Friday],” said Bump. “I think this was just a statement saying that we’re back on track and we’re going to keep playing like this every time.”

Mallonee had three total assists on the night, adding his last on Parsons’s second-period goal. Brady Meyers (Rochester, Minn./Austin Bruins) was almost flawless in his return to the lineup, making 25 saves on 26 New Ulm shots to move his record to 9-3-1 for the season and pick up his first win since Dec. 2. Siclovan took the loss, making 40 saves on North Iowa’s 45 shots.

After a weekend road set at Granite City in November that saw the end of the Bulls’ 15-game winning streak, the Lumberjacks make their visit to Mason City next Friday and Saturday. All that remains for the Bulls to clinch the division title is to win one of those games, or for La Crosse to give up a regulation loss. The Freeze play Sunday afternoon against Central foe Rochester.

Both North Iowa home games next weekend are set to start at 7:30 p.m. at the North Iowa Ice Arena. The Bulls will be wearing special jerseys next weekend, which will be auctioned off after Saturday’s game to benefit My Happy Place in Mason City. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – all home games and select road games are also audio-streamed live on Mixlr.