AUSTIN, Minn. – By the end of Friday’s game between the Austin Bruins and North Iowa Bulls, the two teams looked like they’d more than had their fill of each other. Neither team, however, wanted to be the one to put the other one in position to take advantage of a power play or have a player sent to the showers early.
The two teams had to spend a little extra time together in Friday’s game, as North Iowa snagged a 3-2 win in a shootout, their second meeting in three against the Bruins to go beyond the five-minute overtime session.
The Bulls’ penalty-killing unit excelled in the game, but did hiccup once – Max Scott (San Jose, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) found himself in the penalty box at the 4:01 mark on a tripping call, picking up the game’s first penalty. Just 33 seconds later, John Larkin found Carson Riddle lingering on the right wing, and Larkin fed the puck to Riddle in the faceoff circle for a top-shelf snap and a 1-0 lead.
The Bulls answered back just past the first period’s halfway mark – with two defenders committed to Jack Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) on the right wing, Mesic slipped a pass to Justin Mexico (Madison Heights, Mich./Maine Nordiques AAA), who broke into the Bruins zone and beat Klayton Knapp on his glove side to tie the game at 1-1.
Scott would give North Iowa its only lead of the night at 5:35 of the second period, picking up a loose puck on the doorstep and wrapping it around the post to beat Knapp for the 2-1 advantage.
Isaak Brassard eliminated the North Iowa lead with 8:42 remaining in the period, after a setup pass from behind the net was batted up in the air in front of the crease. The puck settled in front of Brassard at the edge of the slot, and his wrist shot snuck through the traffic in front of the cage to beat Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) and tie the game at 2-2. Neither side scored the rest of the way, despite the Bruins’ 11-8 shots-on-goal advantage in the third period and their 2-1 margin in the overtime.
In the opening round of the shootout, Michael Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Honeybaked 16U) pulled the puck to his forehand side to walk it in past Knapp’s outstretched skate, but Alex Trombley kept the Bruins alive with a snipe to the top of the net in the third round. Mexico came up large again in the top of the fourth round, planting a shot in the upper half of the net to give North Iowa its first win in overtime or a shootout this season. Austin fell to 1-3 in overtime and shootout games.
“It was definitely a hard-fought battle between both teams tonight,” said Mexico. “We just ground it out the first, second and third periods, and took it to overtime and even a shootout. It was a really long game, but it was a fun one to play in.”
Garvey earned his seventh win of the season, making 33 saves for North Iowa. Knapp made 23 saves, saddled with his first loss after earning wins in his first two appearances for Austin.
Mexico headlined the scoring for North Iowa, earning both the tying goal in the first period and the shootout winner, but no player on either side finished with more than one point in the game. North Iowa killed off all of the Bruins’ final seven power plays in the game after allowing the initial goal of the night, but Austin went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
The Bulls regained the percentage-points lead in the Central Division, moving to 11-4-0-1 with the win, while the Bruins slipped to 11-4-1-1, still remaining a point in front of North Iowa with a game in hand for the Bulls.
North Iowa and Austin continue their border battle on Saturday night when the teams reconvene at the Mason City Arena on the Bulls’ Military Appreciation Night. The opening puck drop is slated for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and Mixlr.
Tickets for Saturday’s game, and all North Iowa 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.
North Iowa 1 1 0 0 – 3
Austin 1 1 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Austin, Riddle 8 (Larkin, Richards), 4:34 (PP). 2, North Iowa, Mexico 2 (Mesic, Potter), 10:11. Penalties-Scott Nio (tripping-minor), 4:01; Simmons-Fischer Aus (cross checking-minor), 7:42; Rapalje Nio (hooking-minor), 19:41.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Scott 7 (Coughlin, Carroll), 5:35. 4, Austin, Brassard 1 11:18. Penalties-Morich Nio (hooking-minor), 7:27; Simmons-Fischer Aus (roughing-minor), 12:05; Morich Nio (checking from behind-minor, fighting-major, checking from behind-10 misc, fighting-10 misc), 16:55; Richards Aus (fighting-major, fighting-10 misc), 16:55; Mesic Nio (roughing-minor), 17:57; Catalano Aus (roughing-minor), 17:57.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Mexico Nio (tripping-minor), 2:00; Larkin Aus (slashing-minor), 3:19; Dadie Nio (slashing-minor), 6:13; Scott Nio (slashing-minor), 10:31.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Carroll Nio (high sticking-minor), 4:29.
Shootout – North Iowa 2 (Mesic G, Coughlin NG, Rapalje NG, Mexico G), Austin 1 (Richards NG, Morrissey NG, Trombley G, Jasenec NG).
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 11-5-8-1-1-26. Austin 13-9-11-2-0-35.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 3; Austin 1 / 8.
Goalies-North Iowa, Garvey 7-2-0-2 (35 shots-33 saves). Austin, Knapp 2-0-0-1 (25 shots-23 saves).
Linesmen-Ethan Fox, Cameron Johnson.