Bulls KO Whalers In Spirited Affair

Post Game Report 1-14

MASON CITY, Iowa – The adjacent All Seasons Building at the North Iowa Events Center hosted championship kickboxing on Saturday night, but there were plenty of hockey fans who left Saturday’s North Iowa Bulls game talking about “Fight Night” at the North Iowa Ice Arena. The Bulls won their 22nd home game in a row by knocking out the Whalers by a 6-1 final, trimming their magic number in the NA3HL Central Division to just nine points. The fights themselves came in the third period, a stanza that included over 200 penalty minutes. Seven players in one particular incident in that period were either ejected or handed 10-minute misconducts that forced a premature end to their nights.

New North Iowa forward Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) made an immediate impact in the contest, earning the second assist on a goal from Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) just 3:49 into the contest, on one of his very first shifts in a Bulls sweater. Mike Lyons‘s (Wheaton, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) long heave from the right point got the play started, before Clemons shoveled in the rebound on Max McConnell’s left doorstep.

Bump wasn’t satisfied with just helping out, though, notching his first goal as a Bull with 1:45 left in the first period after walking a chance all the way across the goal to McConnell’s right and sliding it into the open net for a 2-0 lead.

The second period saw the lead trimmed to one – the posts were not friendly to the home team, but they helped to direct a long blast from Broddey Richards off the left hash marks into the net at the 2:56 mark of the second period. Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) tossed one to the net on a power play at the 6:32 mark of the period, though, allowing Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./Bismarck Bobcats) to redirect the puck into the back of the net to build the lead to 3-1 heading to the final 20 minutes.

As they have done so often, it was a pair of goals in quick succession that helped to put the game away. Those goals came in the third period, just 33 seconds apart – Clemons and Arnold tallied at 4:32 and 5:05 of the final period to push the lead to 5-1.

That’s when the exchange of pleasantries turned to an exchange of punches – Zach Hayes (Bartlett, Ill./Team Illinois) and Ben Ratner made their exits with eight minutes remaining in the game after a fight at neutral ice. Ron Rentner’s blind-side check of Horka Sekesi (Munich, Germany/Granite City Lumberjacks) along the corner wall just 35 seconds later, though, brought to the pot to a boil with a three-on-three melee in the Wisconsin end. That wasn’t all – Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) and Josh Storms came nose-to-nose just off the North Iowa bench at 13:04 of the period, and Storms was tossed for pulling Mallonee’s helmet off in the scrum.

As the temperature and the pace finally simmered down, the Bulls got one last goal on the board thanks to Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./Soo Eagles), who beat McConnell one more time along the ice with 3:38 to play and rolled the lead to 6-1.

“We just needed to come out and play hard,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “Coming off of our [team’s] illness, that was our concern but our guys were really good tonight. It felt like we were in control of the puck a lot tonight, and that’s the way we want to play. We want to play with speed and we want to play with possession, and our speed was great and our execution was pretty good.”

After taking a tough loss against La Crosse last weekend, Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) picked up his first NA3HL win, making 15 saves on 16 Wisconsin shots. The Whalers took the loss behind McConnell’s 28 saves, dropping him to 3-6-0 on the year. The teams combined for 237 penalty minutes on the night.

“That’s a great team effort, and certainly for [Scites],” said Sanden. “That’s a good outing for him and that’s what we’re looking for from our goaltenders. That’s what we always talk about, that 60-minute effort and it’s apparent that showed up tonight.”

North Iowa is off from NA3HL competition until they host New Ulm on Friday, Jan. 27 to start a home-and-home weekend against the Steel, but they’ll have two exhibition games prior to that against the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres. The Bulls host Shattuck-St. Mary’s on Thursday, Jan. 19 before heading to Faribault, Minn. to face the Sabres on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Thursday’s contest starts at 7:30 p.m. at the North Iowa Ice Arena. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV. Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed live on Mixlr.