BLAINE, Minn. – North Iowa’s defense – and goaltenders Erik Chaffe (Marion, Iowa/Mason City Toros) and Mitchell Day (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) – set the bar high for the second half of the North American Hockey League Showcase with their performances on the first two days at the Super Rink.
Based on their third-day performance, they may yet clear that bar.
Chaffe returned to the net and earned his second shutout of the week, making 23 saves and backstopping the Bulls to a 4-0 victory over the South Division’s Odessa Jackalopes. The 3-0 start is not only the Bulls’ best in three years, but the first time ever that the Bulls have started the season with three straight shutout victories.
North Iowa had battled its first two opponents to scoreless ties in the opening 20 minutes, but they broke through to grab a lead before the intermission on Friday. With 2:36 left in the period, Eli Miller’s (Dundas, Minn./Lakeville South H.S.) shot from the right point bounced off the pads of Odessa goaltender Hunter Hein before finding Cayden Casey (Elk River, Minn./Andover H.S.) on the weak side, and he cleaned up the rebound and rattled the puck into the Jackalopes’ cage to take the 1-0 lead into the locker room.
The Bulls fully grabbed control in the opening 1:35 of the second period, and Justin Mexico (Madison Heights, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) was responsible for much of it. Just 14 seconds out of the break, Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./North Iowa Bulls) sneaked a pass to Mexico just off of the right post, and Mexico slammed home the point-blank one-timer to extend the lead to 2-0.
Only 81 seconds later, the Bulls took advantage of a slashing call against Josh Austin to stretch the lead to three goals. Mexico jogged the puck down the left-wing boards and laid a pass out front for Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Iowa Bulls), who batted in a one-timer of his own to give the Bulls their second power play goal of the week.
The final period belonged to North Iowa, who outshot its opponents 14-3 over the game’s last 20 minutes and got one more power play goal, a wrist shot from Jack Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) at the right-wing faceoff dot with 2:56 remaining.
North Iowa’s power play unit was exceptional, going 2-for-4 against the Jackalopes. The special teams were perfect, wiping away all four Odessa power plays in the game.
Mexico had the only multi-point game, with a goal and an assist. Casey’s goal put him at four points through the first three games, placing him at the top of the team leaderboard entering the final day of the long weekend.
Chaffe and Day ran their total to 69 saves so far on the week without a goal against, adding to an impressive preseason haul that saw the two combine to stop 65 of 68 chances against Corpus Christi and Aberdeen.
The Bulls extended their run to 3-0 for the season, while Odessa sits at 1-2 on the season entering the Showcase’s final day. North Iowa takes on a Janesville Jets squad that also remains perfect under Joe Dibble, who returned to the bench after a previous five-year head coaching stint in Janesville from 2012 to 2017. The opening puck drop is slated for 3 p.m., with live streaming coverage available on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and NorthIowaBulls.com.
North Iowa 1 2 1 – 4
Odessa 0 0 0 – 0
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Casey 2 (Miller, Thiessen), 17:24. Penalties-Deveau Nio (tripping-minor), 6:50.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Mexico 2 (Hartley, Scott), 0:15. 3, North Iowa, Potter 1 (Mexico, Hiltunen), 1:35 (PP). Penalties-Austin Oda (slashing-minor), 1:02; Potter Nio (tripping-minor), 10:20; Potter Nio (cross checking-minor), 18:00.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Mesic 1 (Dombrowsky, Deveau), 17:04 (PP). Penalties-Goode Oda (high sticking-minor), 10:56; Perdion Oda (slashing-minor), 15:18; Kelly Oda (tripping-minor), 17:58; Hartley Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 19:11.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 7-12-14-33. Odessa 6-14-3-23.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 2 / 4; Odessa 0 / 4.
Goalies-North Iowa, Chaffe 2-0-0-0 (23 shots-23 saves). Odessa, Hein 0-0-0-0 (33 shots-29 saves).
Linesmen-Cameron Johnson, Nicholas Seppala.