MASON CITY, Iowa – If there was to be a comeback for the North Iowa Bulls on Saturday night, it would have to start with Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls).
Down 3-0 going to the third, the Bulls veteran snapped home a shot just 22 seconds out of the locker room, breathing life into a team looking to break an Austin Bruins run of six straight goals in their weekend series.
The answer came from Bruins veteran Carson Riddle just a minute-and-a-half later, and the Bulls took a 4-1 loss at the Mason City Arena, the first sweep for either side in what has already shaped up to be a heated battle in the first year of the teams’ border-battle rivalry.
A cross-checking call against Sean Vlasich (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Amarillo Bulls) three minutes into the game put the Austin power play to work, and Jack Malinski hammered a one-timer down the slot to take the 1-0 lead just 29 seconds into the man-advantage.
North Iowa stayed within striking distance through the second period, though the Bruins were able to widen the gap late. With 7:18 left to go in the period, Damon Furuseth entered the zone and dropped a pass back to Braidan Simmons-Fischer, who snapped the puck past Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) and into the top half of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Bruins made their own luck on the penalty kill late in the period, with Garvey looking to clear the puck out of the North Iowa zone. Michal Jasenec snagged the clearing attempt just below the blue line along the boards and fed it to Riddle, who settled it with his skates and jammed in the shorthanded chance with 2:27 showing on the clock.
The Bulls made their move on Rapalje’s goal, after a drive down the left wing that ended with his face-and-fire forehand in front of Klayton Knapp. His goal cut the lead to 3-1, but Malinski would help to set up Riddle’s second goal of the game at 1:54 of the period, as Riddle played the rebound at the goal line and found a seam to sneak the puck past Garvey and push the lead back to three, where it stayed.
“We didn’t have much puck luck (tonight), but I thought our chances were there,” said Vlasich. “We didn’t finish and they did. It was just one of those games.”
Each team didn’t got its chances – the shots-on-goal count was even from start to finish, with each team counting up six shots in the first period, 13 in the second and nine in the third. Garvey made 24 saves to take the loss, while Knapp made 27 for his third win of the season. Austin’s only power play goal came on their first power play of the game, the third straight game the Bruins have capitalized on their first man-advantage. They would finish 1-for-3 with the extra man and kill off all five North Iowa power plays in the game.
Vlasich and Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) earned the assists on Rapalje’s goal, while four different Bruins had multi-point games. Riddle’s two-goal night headlined the Austin offense, and Malinski posted a goal and an assist. Furuseth and Jasenec had two assists apiece.
The Bruins rose to 13-7-1-2 with the victory, while the Bulls fell to 13-6-0-2. North Iowa drops into second place in the Central Division standings, a point behind Austin, though the Bulls have two games in hand on the division leaders and four games in hand on the third-place Minot Minotauros. St. Cloud makes its first trip to the Mason City Arena on Friday evening, for the Bulls’ Teddy Bear Toss night, with the opening puck drop slated for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV and Mixlr.
Tickets for that game, and all North Iowa Bulls home games, are on sale now – to purchase advance tickets to any upcoming Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Austin 1 2 1 – 4
North Iowa 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, Austin, Malinski 3 (Furuseth, Richards), 3:29 (PP). Penalties-Vlasich Nio (cross checking-minor), 3:00; Simmons-Fischer Aus (head contact-minor), 5:24.
2nd Period-2, Austin, Simmons-Fischer 3 (Furuseth, Muzzatti), 12:42. 3, Austin, Riddle 9 (Jasenec), 17:33 (SH). Penalties-Simmons-Fischer Aus (interference-minor), 6:49; Whitehouse Aus (holding-minor), 9:49; Scott Nio (interference-minor), 10:06; Larkin Aus (holding-minor), 15:55.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Rapalje 15 (Dombrowsky, Vlasich), 0:22. 5, Austin, Riddle 10 (Malinski, Jasenec), 1:54. Penalties-Larkin Aus (tripping-minor), 2:52; Dombrowsky Nio (tripping-minor), 3:04; Richards Aus (fighting under 5 minutes-gm), 20:00; Domina Nio (fighting under 5 minutes-gm), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Austin 6-13-9-28. North Iowa 6-13-9-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Austin 1 / 3; North Iowa 0 / 5.
Goalies-Austin, Knapp 3-1-0-1 (28 shots-27 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 9-4-0-2 (28 shots-24 saves).
Linesmen-Reilly Hickey, Jacob Rozenberg.