MASON CITY, Iowa – Wednesday’s exhibition game won’t count in the North Iowa Bulls’ record for the season, but the game will forever exist in the team’s history books, and that history says the Bulls have set the standard for the rest of their season.
It’s national championship or bust.
North Iowa knocked off the renowned Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep hockey team from Faribault, Minnesota by a 5-3 count on Wednesday evening, downing a team with 13 alumni currently in the National Hockey League, and with more than 60 more spread across various pro and NCAA Division I rosters. Each of the previous two teams to do it – the 2013-14 and 2015-16 squads – ended the season by carrying home the NA3HL’s Silver (now Fraser) Cup.
“They’re a couple of years younger than us, but they have very skilled players,” said Dahlseide. “We knew we were going to have our hands full when they came in, but I thought the boys rallied together, and played a good, sound game, and we were able to get the win out of it.”
The game didn’t get off to a great start for the Bulls, though. At 8:07 of the first period, a right-wing shot from Jazz Krivtsov was kicked out in front for Josh Silverman to put away on the rebound, giving Shattuck-St. Mary’s a 1-0 lead.
With 2:21 left in the first period, a left-wing wrist shot from Jack Blake found the top half of the net to make it a 2-0 game. Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) made sure to take care of his end of the business before the end of the period, though, redirecting a shot from Callahan Nauss (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury H.S.) at the right point with just 22 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 2-1.
North Iowa took care to keep pace with their visitors in the first period, and put themselves in a winning position in the second. Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) found Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/Okanagan U20) to the right of the slot for the tying goal with just 3:05 to go before the second intermission.
At 5:15 of the third, the Bulls made their move. An assembly line’s worth of passes at the hash marks in the Sabres’ end eventually found their way to Sean Sullivan (Middleton, Wis./Madison Capitols 18U) on the weak side, who snapped the puck past Marino Ramirez for the goal, and the lead that the Bulls would never relinquish.
A hooking penalty to Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at 8:53 of the final period put North Iowa down a man, but the Bulls’ penalty kill was far from fazed. Dahlseide broke up a pass at the top of the North Iowa zone, taking the puck away from Scott Morrow and sprinting 120 feet before snapping a breakaway goal past Ramirez just 14 seconds after the penalty for a 4-2 lead.
With 6:55 left, the Sabres put the pressure back on the Bulls. Peter LaJoy planted one past Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./North Iowa Bulls) into the upper half of the net to drop the lead back to 4-3.
Ramirez left the net with 1:07 to go in the contest, and the Bulls were able to cap the game with an empty-net goal from the North Iowa blue line, with Sullivan stretching a pass to Wahlin up the left-wing wall and Wahlin heaving the puck the rest of the way to ice the game.
“It was a good competition the full 60 (minutes,” said Wahlin. “It felt good to get that monkey off of our backs, and score that final one.”
North Iowa scored two goals on the penalty kill in the third period, but both teams finished the night 0-for-3 on the power play. The shots-on-goal advantage went to Shattuck-St. Mary’s by a 34-25 count, with Skinner coming on in relief at the game’s midway point to pick up the unofficial win. Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) started the game and took the no-decision, with 12 saves on 14 Sabres shots. Wahlin finished the night with two goals, while Dahlseide highlighted his evening with a goal and two helpers.
The win does not change the Bulls’ 14-2-1-0 record in NA3HL play, but does drop Shattuck-St. Mary’s to 17-4-1 for the season. North Iowa heads on the road on Friday and Saturday to Breezy Point and Willmar as they return to league play, with a home series against Granite City coming up on November 22 and 23.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase advance tickets to future Bulls home games, call 641-423-4625 or click here.