ST. CLOUD, Minn. – As the North Iowa Bulls’ regular season winds down, the men tasked with defending the goal have been as reliable as anybody at putting the puck in the other one.
Jack Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) posted both North Iowa goals on Friday night, running his total to three for the weekend and a dozen for the season, and the Bulls took the Central Division’s top team to the brink again in a 3-2 loss to the St. Cloud Norsemen at the Municipal Athletic Complex. The Norsemen continued a torrid run with the victory, defeating the Bulls in Mason City on January 27 and winning 17 of their 21 games since.
North Iowa got off to as solid a start as ever, grabbing the lead just 79 seconds in with a shot from Mesic at the left point that beat Tomas Bolo over his left shoulder.
St. Cloud went into the second period with a 14-6 shots-on-goal advantage and quickly tied the game with a goal from Blake Mesenburg that rang off the inside of the post just 1:09 out of the break. The teams began the period 4-on-4 following a head contact major to Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) and a subsequent roughing minor to Nick Young in the ensuing conflict.
At 7:23 of the period, Brandon Lajoie gave the Norsemen their first lead of the night, pinballing one into the net off of Evan Murr’s shot above the right-wing faceoff circle to make it a 2-1 game.
The Bulls got one back on the power play with 7:57 left in the period, tying the game at 2-2. With Mesenburg serving a holding minor, Mesic launched a shot from the left wing that got Bolo spun around on his right post, evening up the game going to the third.
Blake Perbix’s goal with 7:33 left was the difference in the game, pulling Kyle Kozma (Vaughan, Ontario/Minnesota Magicians) out of his net off the right post before dangling the puck around him and slipping it into the cage.
Kozma enjoyed another outstanding night despite the loss, making 40 saves on 43 Norsemen shots. The Bulls were also outstanding in their limited power play time, going 1-for-2 on the man-advantage. Sean Vlasich (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Amarillo Bulls) picked up both primary assists on the goals from Mesic, who enjoyed his first career multi-goal game.
“It’s a tough one, going tied into the third period,” said Vlasich. “I thought we had a really good fight, and we outplayed them for the majority of the game – we just couldn’t find the back of the net. That’s kind of been a struggle, but I thought we played really hard. I was really proud of our effort tonight. [Jack] was making it really easy to play with him tonight – I wasn’t making very tough reads, I was just giving him the puck in open areas and he was doing the rest of it, so hats off to him.”
St. Cloud came up empty on all four of its power plays, including its extended 5-on-4 early in the second period. Mesenburg had a goal and an assist for St. Cloud’s only multi-point game of the night. Bolo made 28 saves to earn his 26th win of the season, moving him into second place on the all-time single-season Norsemen leaderboard.
The scoreless night for Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) ended an impressive five-game goal-scoring streak, a season-high for the Bulls and the team’s longest since jumping to the North American Hockey League this season.
North Iowa drops to 22-24-4-6 on the season, while St. Cloud climbed to 36-15-2-1 ahead of a weekend road trip to Austin on Saturday and Janesville on Sunday. The win also guaranteed the Norsemen the top seed in the Robertson Cup Central Division playoffs, a division which the Norsemen can win outright with any point gained or any point missed by second-place Aberdeen the rest of the way.
The Bulls are off for the remainder of the weekend before hosting the Bismarck Bobcats next Friday and Saturday. The opening puck drop both nights at the Mason City Arena is set for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and Mixlr.
Next Friday’s game is the Bulls’ “Room and Boarding” Night, with $5 admission for students with a valid college ID, and $3 domestic beers for all fans of legal age. To purchase advance tickets to those games or any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are 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 – 2
St. Cloud 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Mesic 11 (Vlasich, Hartley), 1:19. Penalties-Japchen Nio (tripping-minor), 15:09; Dombrowsky Nio (head contact-major, head contact-gm), 19:56; Young Stn (roughing-minor), 19:56.
2nd Period-2, St. Cloud, Mesenburg 25 (Sabo), 1:09. 3, St. Cloud, Lajoie 23 (Murr, Benz), 7:23. 4, North Iowa, Mesic 12 (Vlasich, Scott), 12:03 (PP). Penalties-Mesenburg Stn (holding-minor), 11:25.
3rd Period-5, St. Cloud, Perbix 21 (Mesenburg, O’Neill), 12:27. Penalties-Morich Nio (tripping-minor), 2:14; Wurst Stn (interference-minor), 5:56; LaRusso Nio (slashing-minor), 7:12.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 6-15-9-30. St. Cloud 14-19-10-43.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 1 / 2; St. Cloud 0 / 4.
Goalies-North Iowa, Kozma 7-11-3-1 (43 shots-40 saves). St. Cloud, Bolo 26-7-1-0 (30 shots-28 saves).
Linesmen-Devin Kasperek, Casey Schumacher.