SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – The 2019-20 North Iowa regular season came to a close on Saturday night with yet more history, as the Bulls head into the postseason with a bang – Granite City fell on its home ice by a 5-2 count, thanks to five unanswered North Iowa goals.
This weekend marked the first time since the start of the 2013-14 season that the Bulls have earned a sweep at Sports Arena East, and the team extended its winning run to a season-long eight games. Granite City has lost six of seven, its first run of that nature since early in the 2017-18 season. With the win, North Iowa takes the season series 5-3, after losing all six meetings with the Lumberjacks last season. The Bulls won the season series two years ago, taking one of their two losses to overtime.
After a scoreless battle for much of the first period, a 5-on-3 opened the door for the Lumberjacks to take command. A roughing penalty against Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./Jamestown Rebels) and a cross checking call against Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) put Granite City up two men, and they took advantage of both. Just seven seconds into the two-man advantage, Bailey Sommers put the hosts ahead with a one-timer on the doorstep from Carson Simon, and Simon emptied the Bulls penalty box with 2:42 left in the period on a goal of his own.
However, North Iowa grabbed the momentum back heading to the second period, with Joey Petronack (White Bear Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) taking a toss down the zone from Matt Dahlseide (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) and jousting it into the net with 1:11 remaining to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Bulls simply had a habit of finishing periods on Saturday night – Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) got his stick in the shooting lane on a left-point toss from Callahan Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./Wayzata H.S.) and deflected the puck past Nate Johnston to tie the game with 2:48 remaining in the period. Just 55 seconds later, a sharp-angle snipe from Nico Aguilera (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South H.S.) beat Johnston into the upper corner on the far post for a 3-2 lead.
North Iowa not only defended that lead for most of the final period, they took command for two more goals in the final 6:06. A shot block from Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/Okanagan U20) high in the Bulls’ defensive zone set up Nick Bowlin’s (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) pass ahead for a race to the Granite City net. Isogai stayed ahead of the pack and buried one on Johnston’s stick side to make it a 4-2 game.
With 4:01 left, the Bulls made their closing statement, when Petronack’s initial chance was kicked out long for Wahlin to put away on the rebound.
“We need to keep building momentum,” said Wahlin. “We have four solid lines that we just need to keep rolling. Keep everyone healthy, and we’ll be fine.”
The Bulls closed out their regular season with a 38-7-2-0 record and 78 points in the West Division standings, 11 points ahead of runner-up Granite City, who fell to 33-13-1-0 with the loss. Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) made 23 saves to earn his 16th win of the season and sixth in a row. Johnston took the loss, making 28 saves and taking his fifth loss in his last seven decisions.
The weekend marked a couple of major scoring milestones, with Dahlseide closing out his regular season with a team-high 67 points. With three assists in the contest, he wrapped up the regular season with 42 helpers, only the fourth player in Bulls history to finish with 40 or more assists in multiple seasons. The team goal-scoring title went to Wahlin, who ended the season with 32.
Dahlseide snuck past Fagerlee to finish his regular-season run as a Bull with 159 points, finishing just one point behind Brett Gravelle for fourth in team history. His 103 assists rocketed him past Timothy Santopoalo for third in team history.
The Bulls return home to begin the Fraser Cup West Division playoffs on Friday night as the Alexandria Blizzard come to town. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., as the Bulls celebrate Friday the 13th with several “13”-inspired specials, including 13-percent discounts on merchandise, 13 brands of beer for just $3, and a 13-person shootout between periods for $113 in cash. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey is always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase advance tickets to upcoming Bulls home games, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
North Iowa 1 2 2 – 5
Granite City 2 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Granite City, Sommers 23 (Simon, Halliday), 16:49 (PP). 2, Granite City, Simon 25 (Pogue, Sommers), 17:18 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Petronack 4 (Dahlseide, Wahlin), 18:49. Penalties-Kubitz Nio (tripping-minor), 2:48; Simon Gcy (roughing-minor), 11:20; Pogue Gcy (boarding-minor), 12:32; Eha Nio (roughing-minor), 16:13; Fagerlee Nio (cross checking-minor), 16:42; Triemert Nio (roughing-minor), 17:59; Sousa Gcy (holding-minor), 17:59.
2nd Period-4, North Iowa, Wahlin 31 (Nauss, Dahlseide), 17:12. 5, North Iowa, Aguilera 9 (Fagerlee, Bowlin), 18:07. Penalties-Sousa Gcy (hooking-minor), 3:04; Aguilera Nio (cross checking-minor), 7:47; Richert Gcy (tripping-minor), 10:15; Saltness Nio (tripping-minor), 14:27; Birdsall Gcy (cross checking-minor), 18:41.
3rd Period-6, North Iowa, Isogai 22 (Bowlin), 13:54. 7, North Iowa, Wahlin 32 (Petronack, Dahlseide), 15:59. Penalties-Hellerud Nio (cross checking-minor), 4:21; Dias Gcy (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor (embellishment/diving)), 4:21; Stewart Nio (tripping-minor), 16:31; Fagerlee Nio (roughing-minor), 17:22; Halliday Gcy (holding-minor), 17:22.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 11-15-7-33. Granite City 9-7-9-25.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 5; Granite City 2 / 6.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 16-2-0-0 (25 shots-23 saves). Granite City, Johnston 16-5-0-0 (33 shots-28 saves).
Linesmen-Daniel Naylor, Calvin Stace Alvarado.