MASON CITY, Iowa – This particular Saturday night at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena seemed a little odd. Maybe it was the format, with four 30-minute running-time periods. Maybe it was the roster, with an overload of dressed players and nary a scratch in sight, in an effort to get everybody plenty of ice time. Maybe it was the socially-distanced seating.
In the end, though, the game on the ice was the same hockey that North Iowa Bulls and Rochester Grizzlies fans are used to. The Bulls fans in attendance went home happy as well, with North Iowa earning a 5-2 preseason win over the Grizzlies as both teams dropped the puck on the 2020-21 campaign.
The teams combined for 14 shots in the opening 30 minutes, with neither team earning an edge. The Bulls found their stride barely four minutes in, though, with Tommy Duren (Onalaska, Wis./Onalaska H.S.) chipping one in high over Zach Wiese to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead. In the fifth minute, a knuckling slap shot from Noah Roitman (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) beat Wiese from just below the blue line to double the lead.
The Bulls got a third goal barely two minutes later, with Hayden Fox (Anchorage, Alaska/Team Alaska) grabbing a pinballing puck in front of the net and sliding it in past Wiese to push the lead to 3-0.
In the 24th minute of the period, though, the Grizzlies responded with a flourish, grabbing a faceoff in their own end and taking off on a 3-on-1 chance. Top returning scorer Joey Fodstad raced the puck down the right wing and beat Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) on the back post to cut the lead to 3-1.
The Bulls stretched the lead to 5-1 in the third period, with Nico Aguilera (Lakeville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) and Jac Triemert (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) helping out on each other’s goals. In the fifth minute, Aguilera snapped one from the edge of the slot that beat Zach Foster on his glove side, pushing the North Iowa lead back to three goals.
Triemert got his chance in the 25th minute of the period, off of a pair of passes from Garrett Freeman (Sartell, Minn./Breezy Point North Stars) and Aguilera. Triemert also went to Foster’s glove side, beating him in the top corner from just inside the left-wing faceoff circle for a 5-1 advantage.
In the fourth period, the Grizzlies got one of those goals back, with Sam Williams knocking down a point shot from Logan Kroyman that was heading wide, and finishing with a chance of his own to beat Daninger from mid-slot in the 12th minute.
“The defensemen ran through the whole game. They were real troopers for that,” said Aguilera. “The forwards split time, so everyone got equal time. We just kept working and kept going.”
Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) shut the Grizzlies down in his 60-minute share, with 18 saves. Daninger, however, earned the win on the strength of 21 saves of his own in the second and fourth periods.
Wiese took the loss, making nine saves in the early half of the game, while Foster made 17 saves in relief. Each team came up empty on the power play, with the Bulls going 0-for-3 on the night and Rochester going 0-for-6.
The Bulls and Grizzlies will meet up again at the Rochester Recreation Center on Friday night, with a 7:05 p.m. scheduled puck drop. If available at all, tickets will be extremely hard to come by at the door due to Minnesota state mandates that limit indoor gatherings to 250 people or fewer. North Iowa fans are encouraged to watch Friday’s game on HockeyTV, or listen on Mixlr. North Iowa opens its home regular-season schedule Friday, October 2, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop in Mason City against the Alexandria Blizzard.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey and the team’s 10th Anniversary season in Mason City are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.