OREGON, Wis. – Despite peppering Wisconsin goaltender Alex Hufford with 51 shots on net, North Iowa needed a third-period comeback Saturday night to wrap up a 4-3 win over the Whalers and finish off an unbeaten weekend to start the season. Hufford made 47 saves in the loss, including 18 saves in the final 20 minutes of play. Those 47 stops put him just two short of his career best with the Whalers.
Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) followed up his natural hat trick from Friday night with an early goal Saturday, lighting the lamp just 2:38 into the contest. The lead stood through the first intermission, but disappeared just 14 seconds into the second stanza on a power-play goal from Nick Rogers. After playing a prominent role the previous night, the special-teams play made yet another appearance at the 13:16 mark of the second, on a shorthanded tally from Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to make it 2-1 with 20 minutes left.
Two Wisconsin goals in the opening 8:29 of the third sparked the Bulls’ comeback – Alex Gille’s goal just over two minutes into the period tied the game, and another goal from Rogers at the 8:29 mark gave the Whalers their first lead of the weekend.
That turned out to be their only lead, and it didn’t last long – Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) made his return to the score sheet at 9:11 of the third period, just 42 seconds after Rogers’s tally. Bryceton Butkiewicz (Kettle River, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness) made his first goal in a North Iowa sweater count, scoring the eventual game-winner with 6:37 remaining.
Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) made his 2017-18 debut in the win, stopping 31 of the Whalers’ 34 shots on the night. The Bulls are off to a 2-0 start, their first in four years – the 2013-14 North Iowa squad won an incredible 18 games to start the season on the way to a 45-3-0 regular-season finish.
Todd Sanden’s team now continues their eight-game season-opening road trip with a pair of games at La Crosse on Friday and Saturday, a rematch of the last two Central Division Finals. The opening faceoff each night is slated for 7 p.m. at the Green Island Ice Arena in La Crosse, Wisconsin.