BLAINE, Minn. – No matter how you pick apart the sport of hockey, the best teams are always teams who can score goals. It’s just not possible to win games without offense.
Leave it to the defensemen, then, to set the tone for the Bulls’ scoring in Monday’s game against the Northeast Generals at the NA3HL Showcase. Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./Milwaukee Jr. Admirals) and Justin Callahan (Algonquin, Ill./Chicago Cougars) provided the first-period scoring as the Bulls won their 20th game of the season, a 5-1 matinee.
The victory was North Iowa’s 15th in its last 16 outings, running its current winning streak to five games. The win was also the Bulls’ sixth straight at the Showcase. Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) kept his own hot streak alive, making 24 stops on 25 Generals shots to win his seventh straight decision.
Stewart’s shot from the left faceoff dot beat Northeast goalie Jeb Barrett up top on the glove side less than six minutes in to give North Iowa a 1-0 advantage. North Iowa newcomer Erik Evans (Minneapolis, Minn./Granite City Lumberjacks) and Callahan teamed up on a give-and-go for the second goal, at the 8:22 mark of the period.
The Generals opted to rest number-one goaltender John Driscoll, after playing back-to-back days in games played more than 1,400 miles apart. Driscoll picked up the win Saturday over the Cape Cod Islanders, but gave up six goals in the Generals’ Showcase opener Sunday against the St. Louis Jr. Blues.
Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) ratcheted up the degree of difficulty on his goal halfway through the second period, scoring from the left wing as he was pulled down and giving the Bulls a 3-0 lead.
The lead hit 4-0 with 4:23 left in the period, as Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) tapped in a one-timer from Evans on the doorstep. Barrett found himself handicapped on the Bulls’ second goal of the period, with his stick laying 20 feet away in the faceoff circle nearby after losing it on a previous save in the sequence.
Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) put one on the board at 6:18 of the third period, cleaning up the rebound on a long toss from Ivan Bogach (Brooklyn, N.Y./North Iowa Bulls) at the left point.
With the North Iowa lead stretched to five and time winding down, the Generals finally busted up the shutout with 3:26 remaining as Kolye Bankauskas grabbed the puck off a faceoff to Skinner’s left, ran to the slot and climbed the ladder for the Generals’ opening goal.
Neither team was able to make any headway in limited special-teams time, with Northeast going 0-for-3 on the power play and killing off North Iowa’s only man-advantage in the first period. Skinner bumped his record to 8-2-0-0 with the win, while Barrett dropped to 4-3-1-0 with 34 saves on 39 North Iowa shots.
Dahlseide’s goal pushed his point streak to 14 straight contests, tying Studioso for the team’s longest this season. North Iowa ran its record to 20-6-0-0 for the season, while Northeast drops to 21-7-1-1. The win also propelled North Iowa into the West Division points lead, pending Granite City’s game against NA3HL leader Lewiston/Auburn Monday evening. The Lumberjacks still hold the West’s top points percentage, with two games in hand including Monday’s evening affair.
The Bulls have just one game remaining before the start of the Christmas break, but it may be their tallest task yet at the Showcase, with the Helena Bighorns carrying a 22-3-0-0 record and the Frontier Division lead into Tuesday morning’s finale. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 11:45 a.m., with exclusive streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns to home ice on January 4 for “Cinemania Night” against the New Ulm Steel, featuring appearances from some of your favorite movie characters, including the Minions, Frozen’s Olaf, Spiderman and Spongebob Squarepants. For advance tickets to that game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
North Iowa 2 2 1 – 5
Northeast 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Stewart 5 (Verstegen, Evans), 5:57. 2, North Iowa, Callahan 2 (Evans, Junker), 8:22. Penalties-Gerbis Net (tripping-minor), 10:35; Junker Nio (slashing-minor), 11:57.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Blackowiak 19 (Bogach, Junker), 9:20. 4, North Iowa, Dahlseide 13 (Evans, Verstegen), 15:37. Penalties-Blackowiak Nio (cross checking-minor), 0:30.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Studioso 15 (Bogach, McDermott), 6:18. 6, Northeast, Bankauskas 23 16:34. Penalties-Dahlseide Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 17:40.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 14-13-12-39. Northeast 10-8-7-25.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 1; Northeast 0 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Skinner 9-2-0-0 (25 shots-24 saves). Northeast, Barrett 4-3-1-0 (39 shots-34 saves).
Linesmen-Bryan Gorcoff, Cameron McCambridge.