ROCHESTER, Minn. – Games between the North Iowa Bulls and Rochester Grizzlies are almost universally close when they count, so why would a preseason exhibition be any different?
Friday’s road tilt was everything Bulls fans have come to expect from the rivalry, with special teams success galore and a contest that came down to the final shot. A power-play goal with just 50 seconds remaining put the Bulls in striking distance, but Rochester was able to run out the clock for a 3-2 victory at the Rochester Recreation Center. Including their preseason tilts this year, the home team has now won nine straight games head-to-head in the series.
The first period was a relatively quiet affair, save for an early scrum and six shots from either side. Joey Fodstad’s hooking penalty at 2:49 of the second period opened the door for the Bulls, and they stepped lively through it – right off of the initial faceoff, Isaac Lindstrom’s (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) shot rebounded out to Shota Kaneko (Tokyo, Japan/Shirakaba Gakuen H.S.) on the doorstep, who buried the chance for a 1-0 lead.
Rochester took advantage of its first chance, a head-contact minor against Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./North Iowa Bulls). Halfway through the man-advantage, Jameson Folden’s shot from the right wing off of a drop pass from Fodstad beat Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to tie the game at 1-1.
Alex Villa found Kyle Brown at the inside corner of the left-wing circle for a close-in one-timer with 3:31 to go in the second period, giving the Grizzlies the lead for good. The Rochester special teams came through again just past the halfway mark of the third, with a second remaining on a 4-on-3 chance. The hosts took advantage of open passing lanes in front of the net, with Tyler Huffer finding Logan Kroyman for a backdoor one-timer and an insurance goal with 9:07 remaining.
With the tying goal a step further away, North Iowa took their comeback bid one step at a time. Justice landed in the penalty box himself on a cross-checking penalty with 1:37 to go, and Caleb Huffman’s (Fairbanks, Alaska/Meijer AAA) shot from the top of the zone careened off of Hayden Fox (Anchorage, Alaska/Team Alaska) in front of the net and past Zach Foster, putting the Bulls back within a goal at 19:10 of the third period.
“My job was to be in front of the net, so I just made sure I got in front of their d-man and got the stick out to deflect it,” said Fox. “Luckily, it went in and we got some momentum going.”
With a 4-on-4 chance and the faceoff in the Grizzlies’ end, though, the Bulls could not take advantage of the extra space in the final 39 seconds after one last pair of coincidental minors to complete the comeback. Rochester walked off of their home ice with the win, giving the decision to Zach Foster, who played the third period for the Grizzlies. Daninger made 24 saves in the loss.
Of the five goals in the game, four came on the power play, with the Bulls totaling up a 2-for-6 line in the game and Rochester wrapping up the night at 2-for-3. The teams finished neck-and-neck on the shot chart as well, with the Grizzlies edging out the Bulls 27 shots to 26.
North Iowa returns to action next Friday night, as they welcome the Alexandria Blizzard to the Mason City Multipurpose Arena for a 7:30 p.m. tilt. The game marks the 500th junior hockey game in Bulls history, and opens the team’s 10th Anniversary season in Mason City. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming of next Friday’s game on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase tickets to any upcoming Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here.