ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – In the early goings of Friday night’s contest between the North Iowa Bulls and Alexandria Blizzard, offense was far from the name of the game.
Pucks went high. Pucks went wide. Pucks went into the crowd. Pucks went into the bench. For almost half of the first period, though, pucks did not reach either Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./Blaine H.S.) or Bailey Rosch.
Once the Bulls and Blizzard got the misfires out of their systems, though, they quickly made up for lost time – North Iowa put 17 shots on net in the first period alone on the way to a 5-1 win over the Blizzard, keeping pace with arch-rival Granite City for the top spot in the NA3HL West Division race.
With three shots on net in the previous 45 seconds, the Bulls turned Daninger’s first save of the night into a race to the opposite end of the rink. Dalton Saltness (Forest Lake, Minn./Forest Lake H.S.) found Jackson Vercellono (Laconia, N.H./St. Cloud Blizzard) on the right wing, who lifted the puck past Rosch just ahead of the 10-minute mark of the first for the 1-0 lead.
At the 7:18 mark of the second period, a pass from Nico Aguilera (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South H.S.) at the right point found Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) coming through the left-wing faceoff circle, and after a quick bounce off of the skates, Roo settled the puck and tapped it in to double the lead.
A strange play at the Alexandria end helped the Bulls reach a 3-0 lead with 2:41 remaining in the second period – as Roo attempted to play a carom off the end boards, a centering pass found Blizzard defenseman Jack Taylor in the goal crease, who helped Rosch to cover the puck. As Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) attempted to find the puck in the scramble, he was taken down from behind, and the Bulls opted to have Wahlin take the ensuing penalty shot. After sprinting to the top of the slot, Wahlin slowed to a crawl and used a double-deke to slip the puck into the Alexandria net, giving the Bulls a 3-0 lead heading to the final period.
The final 20 minutes were much more conventional – after a high rebound off of Rosch at 6:14 of the third period, Nick Bowlin (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) handed off the puck to Wahlin off of a high rebound, and Wahlin immediately snapped the puck into the Blizzard cage for a 4-0 lead.
The lead reached its peak with 6:18 remaining, when Matt Dahlseide’s (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) point-blank shot was left out in front of the net – Justin Daly (Delano, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) put the loose puck away for a 5-0 lead, and his sixth goal of the season against the Blizzard.
However, Alexandria would not be denied a goal of their own with just 35 seconds remaining – as Nolan Westra was checked into the point wall, he was able to drop a pass to Chayse Haberman, who ran the puck down the right wing and snapped one past Daninger on the back post to break up the shutout.
Daninger picked up his eighth win of the season, making 23 saves on 24 Alexandria shots. Rosch took the loss, falling to 6-4 with 41 saves. The Bulls added to their power play prowess with a 1-for-3 finish on the man-advantage, while the Blizzard finished 0-for-2 with the extra man.
“We’re doing the little things early (against Alexandria),” said Wahlin. “Once we get some momentum, we’ve just got to play our game. We’re fast, so we need to play the body and put some pucks to the net, and we’re good.”
North Iowa returns to the road Saturday night to square off with the Central Division-leading Rochester Grizzlies. The opening puck drop at the Rochester Recreation Center is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
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.
North Iowa 1 2 2 – 5
Alexandria 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Vercellono 8 (Saltness, Petronack), 9:48. Penalties-Wahlin Nio (roughing-minor), 3:04.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Roo 18 (Aguilera, Stewart), 7:18 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Wahlin 22 17:19 (PS). Penalties-Sanborn Alx (slashing-minor), 6:39; Fagerlee Nio (goalie interference-minor), 7:30; Sivets Alx (tripping-minor), 11:27; Branton Alx (delay of game (prevent goal)-penalty shot), 17:19.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Wahlin 23 (Bowlin), 6:14. 5, North Iowa, Daly 13 (Dahlseide, Eha), 13:42. 6, Alexandria, Haberman 4 (Westra, Johnson), 19:25. Penalties-Haberman Alx (tripping-minor), 9:10.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 17-17-14-48. Alexandria 7-9-9-25.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 1 / 3; Alexandria 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Daninger 8-1-0-0 (25 shots-24 saves). Alexandria, Rosch 6-4-0-1 (48 shots-43 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Dylan Krikke.