MASON CITY, Iowa – The holiday season is a season of giving – Bulls fans gave away a few hats Saturday night behind a three-goal night from Brett Gravelle (Forest Lake, MN/North Iowa Bulls) in a 5-2 win over the Wisconsin Whalers. Gravelle had to wait a bit to start the engine on his third hat trick of the season, but the special-teams engine started right up, thanks to Marshall Barnes's (Edina, MN/Academy of Holy Angels) powerplay goal at 15:18 of the first period as Barnes flipped in a one-timer off a Gravelle pass close to the Wisconsin net. At 19:13 of the period, Gravelle snapped a tight-angle wrist shot past Max McConnell to double the lead heading to the intermission.
The special teams clicked once for the Whalers as well, with Jake McNamara sniping one from the point over the left shoulder of David Johnson (Bloomington, MN/North Iowa Bulls) to cut the lead in half at 7:55 of the second period. At 10:41 of the second, though, the lead climbed right back to two goals off a shot from Austin Jackson (Waterloo, IA/Minnesota Magicians) – the rebound pass went back out to Gravelle, who snapped one in from the middle of the slot in front of McConnell to build the lead back to 3-1. The league leader in powerplay goals finished off his hat trick with 7:21 left in the period, throwing a turnaround wrister into the net for his third and final goal. Taylor Dickert got the Whalers back on the board with a turnaround try himself, scoring from the faceoff circle with just over five minutes left in the period for a 4-2 lead.
The scoring in the third period wasn't known for its volume, but for its beauty – David Min (Redmond, WA/Banff Hockey Academy) took a long pass from the Bulls' end to set up a shorthanded breakaway goal at 6:08 of the third, with Min's triple-deke, five-hole effort undressing McConnell for the evening's final tally.
"He's a dynamic 1-on-0 player," says head coach Todd Sanden. "If you watch him when we practice our shootouts, the kid probably has 39 moves he could have put on that guy. I didn't the goalie really had a chance when I saw David with that much ice to work with."
Gravelle ended the night with four points, propelling him past Atlanta's Kyle Rimbach and St. Louis's Frankie Melton into the NA3HL's points lead (38), and hat tricks for both Gravelle and Melton left them tied for the league lead in goals (23) as the Bulls head into the Thanksgiving holiday. Johnson raised his record to 8-0, stopping 31 of the 33 shots sent his way. Two long winning streaks continue for North Iowa – the home-ice streak now stands at 15 games, with two more opportunities to add on before the end of the calendar year. The overall winning streak for Todd Sanden's team stands at 16 games ahead of the holidays. The Bulls bump their record to 17-0-1 ahead of a two-game weekend series December 4 and 5 at the Minnesota Flying Aces, before returning to renew old acquaintances with West Division arch-rival Granite City the following weekend.