BLAINE, Minn. – North Iowa Bulls captain Ryan Coughlin’s (Charlotte, N.C./Amarillo Bulls) teammates weren’t going to let it go – despite his protests, Coughlin opened his 100th junior hockey game Saturday night with a “hot lap” all to himself ahead of the Bulls’ warmups against the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Turns out, it was a couple of his teammates who burned their names into the score sheet.
Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) and Greg Japchen (Doylestown, Pa./Amarillo Bulls) each scored a pair of goals, with Japchen adding an assist, and North Iowa routed the Brown Bears 6-2, wrapping up the North American Hockey League Showcase with three wins in four games. In doing so, the Bulls scored wins against former North Iowa Outlaws coach Dave Boitz’s Minnesota Wilderness program, as well as the Amarillo Wranglers which replaced the Bulls in that city over the offseason, and associate head coach and general manager Kevin Murdock’s former Kenai River squad, with the two parting ways this past spring after two seasons together.
The lead belonged to North Iowa early, with Anthony Galante (Morganville, N.J./Maine Nordiques AAA) putting the Bulls in the driver’s seat with a poke in front of the net just 2:52 into the contest.
Tristian Thibeault’s boarding penalty halfway through the opening period was a costly one for the Brown Bears – it took three tries, but with 9:30 remaining in the first, Chris Carroll (Islip, N.Y./Amarillo Bulls) fed the puck across to Japchen at the right point, and his frozen-rope one-timer rocketed past Bryant Marks for a North Iowa power play goal and a 2-0 lead.
Kenai River got its payback after a cross-checking penalty to Max Scott (San Jose, Calif./Amarillo Bulls), with David Vieten scoring on a right-wing one-timer of his own from Jake Veri to cut the lead to 2-1 with 6:36 remaining in the period.
It took less than 90 seconds out of the intermission for North Iowa to stretch the lead back to two goals – Carroll created a one-on-one chance in front of the Kenai River net, but the drop pass to Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) simply dribbled underneath his stick. Rapalje found the second one-timer on the left wing and ripped it home to push the lead to 3-1.
The teams would exchange goals in just 18 seconds later in the second – Sean Henry knocked down a North Iowa clearing attempt and tossed it on net from the left half-boards, sneaking it under the crossbar past Cullen DeYoung (Canton, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) with 8:33 remaining in the period. The Bulls answered quickly, on a toe-drag tally in front of the net by Coughlin, pushing the lead to 4-2 with 8:15 to play in the period.
North Iowa and Kenai River nearly went the remainder of the night without further offense, but an empty-netter from Rapalje on the right wing with just over three minutes to go gave the Bulls their first three-goal lead of the night. North Iowa put the cap on the game with 57 seconds remaining – after Michael Mesic’s (Plymouth, Mich./Honeybaked U16 AAA) shot rang off the crossbar, the rebound went straight to Japchen in the left-wing circle, and his second chance didn’t miss, giving the Bulls an exclamation mark to an outstanding weekend at the National Sports Center Super Rink.
“We used our speed to our advantage, which I think is what we do best,” said Rapalje. “I think it paid off for us this weekend. My teammates gave me the puck in great spots, and the empty-netter at the end was good.”
Coughlin would net a goal and an assist on his milestone night, while Carroll made his mark with three assists of his own. DeYoung earned his second save in as many nights, following a 33-save performance against the Wranglers with 28 saves against the Brown Bears, while Marks took the loss for Kenai River with 23 stops.
The victory pushes North Iowa to 3-1 heading to divisional play next weekend as the Aberdeen Wings make their first-ever regular-season visit to Mason City. The opening night of the Bulls’ 2021-22 home slate is set for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop on Friday night at the Mason City Arena, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and Mixlr.
Single-game tickets are on sale for all upcoming North Iowa home games – to purchase tickets to any home game this season, call the Bulls front office at 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.
Kenai River 1 1 0 – 2
North Iowa 2 2 2 – 6
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Galante 1 (Domina), 2:52. 2, North Iowa, Japchen 2 (Carroll), 10:30 (PP). 3, Kenai River, Vieten 3 (Veri, McCormack), 13:24 (PP). Penalties-Thibeault Knr (boarding-minor), 9:23; Scott Nio (cross checking-minor), 12:37; Dubicki Knr (hooking-minor), 18:15.
2nd Period-4, North Iowa, Rapalje 1 (Dombrowsky, Carroll), 1:27. 5, Kenai River, Henry 1 11:21. 6, North Iowa, Coughlin 3 (Scott, Vlasich), 11:45. Penalties-Marquette Knr (slashing-minor), 12:07; Scott Nio (tripping-minor), 17:02.
3rd Period-7, North Iowa, Rapalje 2 (Carroll, Japchen), 16:54 (EN). 8, North Iowa, Japchen 3 (Mesic, Coughlin), 19:03. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Kenai River 11-12-7-30. North Iowa 11-13-5-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Kenai River 1 / 2; North Iowa 1 / 3.
Goalies-Kenai River, Marks 0-3-0-0 (28 shots-23 saves). North Iowa, DeYoung 2-0-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves).