MASON CITY, Iowa – The North Iowa Bulls’ starts this week have been uncharacteristic, to say the least. The group that had scored first in 14 straight NA3HL games allowed the first three goals in an exhibition game Wednesday against Shattuck-St. Mary’s, before New Ulm grabbed a three-goal lead on Friday night in league play as well.
The Bulls, however, simply shook it off and went to work – in both games, the Bulls erased that three-goal deficit, but New Ulm had the last word in Friday’s West Division showdown, with a power play goal at 14:35 of the third period on the way to a 5-3 victory over the Bulls. The victory gives the Steel four wins in six meetings this year, and four straight wins overall.
Michael Savelkoul and Jacob Halvorson tied each other at the blue line on a rush up the left wing less than four minutes into the first, and after Savelkoul picked up a drop pass just inside the blue line and ran it in for a point-blank shot, Halvorson picked up the rebound and pitched it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
A pass from Savelkoul at the left-wing faceoff dot found Keegan Bauman at the middle of the slot, and his wrist shot beat Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) on the glove side for a 2-0 lead at 7:39 of the first period, and despite a 13-7 shots-on-goal advantage, the Steel carried the lead into the second.
Bauman added to it just 5:11 into the second period, with Halvorson carrying a drop pass into the North Iowa zone and tossing it back to Bauman for a 2-on-1 one-timer to push the Steel to their largest lead of the night.
North Iowa continued to push for their first goal, and the Bulls finally broke the seal less than three-and-a-half minutes later. A pass across the ice from Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/Okanagan U20) on a faceoff found Dalton Saltness (Forest Lake, Minn./Forest Lake H.S.) to the right of A.J. Cohen, and his rip from the bottom corner of the faceoff circle made it a 3-1 game.
Stanislav Danaev’s slashing minor with 4:30 to go gave the Bulls an extra chance, and Callahan Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./Phoenix Jr. Coyotes) took advantage on a long-distance toss from just inside the blue line. His shot threaded its way through heavy traffic in front of the net, cutting the lead to 3-2 with 3:33 to go in the second period.
The Steel clung to that one-goal advantage for most of the third, before North Iowa finally wiped the rest of it away with just 8:02 left. Ryan Hempel’s (Katy, Texas/Elliot Lake Wildcats) pass to the top of the crease set up Carter Wagner (Lino Lakes, Minn./Odessa Jackalopes) for a quick tap-in, making it a 3-3 game.
However, a head-contact call against Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./Jamestown Rebels) gave the Steel an opening with 5:25 to go. Halvorson weaved it through the traffic from the left wing, setting a pass to Bauman at the bottom of the right-wing faceoff circle, and his one-timer beat Bulls relief goalie Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./Blaine H.S.) to grab New Ulm the lead for good. Savelkoul stretched one into the empty net from 100 feet with 3.6 seconds to play, pushing the score to its final margin.
Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) had two assists on the night, and Babekuhl finished with just five saves, taking the no-decision. The hard-luck loss went to Daninger, who made 10 saves on 11 Steel shots.
“It was frustrating,” said Stewart. “We hit six crossbars, so we didn’t get the bounces tonight, but we’ve also got to bury our own opportunities.”
North Iowa out-shot the Steel 33-20, but could not slow down New Ulm’s top line, with Savelkoul posting a goal and four assists, and Halvorson putting up a goal and three helpers. However, the big night belonged to Bauman, who picked up his second hat trick of the year against the Bulls. He finishes the regular-season series with nine goals against North Iowa, along with three assists.
With no games on tap for Saturday or Sunday, the Bulls closed out a quiet weekend with a mark of 28-6-2-0 for the season, while New Ulm climbs to 18-11-2-1 ahead of a two-day road trip to St. Louis. North Iowa returns to home ice to face the Alexandria Blizzard in a makeup game on Thursday night, with the opening puck drop at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The “Thirsty Thursday” contest will stream live on HockeyTV, with 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.
New Ulm 2 1 2 – 5
North Iowa 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period-1, New Ulm, Halvorson 20 (Savelkoul, Smidt), 3:53. 2, New Ulm, Bauman 16 (Savelkoul, Halvorson), 7:39. Penalties-Wagner Nio (boarding-minor), 11:14; Isogai Nio (slashing-minor), 16:48.
2nd Period-3, New Ulm, Bauman 17 (Halvorson, Savelkoul), 5:12. 4, North Iowa, Saltness 8 (Isogai, Fagerlee), 8:34. 5, North Iowa, Nauss 2 (Roo, Stewart), 16:27 (PP). Penalties-Finn Num (tripping-minor), 5:37; Danaev Num (slashing-minor), 15:30.
3rd Period-6, North Iowa, Wagner 13 (Stewart, Hempel), 11:58. 7, New Ulm, Bauman 18 (Halvorson, Savelkoul), 14:35 (PP). 8, New Ulm, Savelkoul 11 (Bauman), 19:57 (EN). Penalties-Eha Nio (head contact-minor), 12:57.
Shots on Goal-New Ulm 7-6-7-20. North Iowa 13-15-5-33.
Power Play Opportunities-New Ulm 1 / 3; North Iowa 1 / 2.
Goalies-New Ulm, Cohen 8-4-1-1 (33 shots-30 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 10-2-0-0 (8 shots-5 saves); Daninger 7-1-0-0 (11 shots-10 saves).
Linesmen-Zach Carson, Dana Naylor.