BLAINE, Minn. – The NA3HL Showcase always brings a unique challenge for Todd Sanden and his North Iowa Bulls team: preparing for opponents that they’ve never faced in the past.
Fortunately, North Iowa did just fine in playing to its own strengths on Sunday in their first-ever meeting with the Mid-Cities Jr. Stars, opening the Showcase with three goals in a 98-second span in the third period and a 6-3 win.
The Bulls got things rolling at the midway point of the first period, with a long pass out of the corner hitting Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) in stride at the Mid-Cities blue line. Studioso beat Francisco Clark-Silva on the breakaway at the 10:05 mark to open the scoring.
Nick Johnson (New Richmond, Wis./Team Wisconsin U18) earned his first goal as a Bull after a rink-pass got the Jr. Stars to commit their defense to the other side of the ice. Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) and Marco Escobar (Plainfield, Ill./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) set Johnson up for a return in front of the net, which he tapped in for the 2-0 lead with 3:31 remaining in the first period.
The Bulls didn’t wait long to come out of the break to make it 3-0 – just 49 seconds into the period, Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) led the race to the net, sending a pass back to Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at mid-slot for the successful one-timer.
Josh Linn had his say late in the second, facing and firing one past Connor Poczos (Austin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at 13:14 of the second, and beating Poczos again on a two-on-one with 1:57 remaining in the period.
The scramble on the score sheet officially began with 6:24 remaining in the third period – Blackowiak found the back of the net again to make it a 4-2 game, and then Fagerlee finished his own play with a five-hole tally with 5:50 remaining.
Ryan Muckensturm wouldn’t allow the Jr. Stars to go quietly into the night, though, putting one away after having it deflected to him off of a long toss from Blake Campbell at the right point. With 5:09 remaining, the lead dipped to 5-3, but the final word came from Evan Junker (Elk River, Minn./Elk River H.S.) with his own blast from the left wing with 4:46 to go.
The game did involve one goaltender change, after Fagerlee landed on top of Clark-Silva in a scramble for a rebound with 2:33 remaining. With his blocker pad still on, Clark-Silva delivered multiple punches to Fagerlee and was ejected from the game, picking up a match penalty along the way. Noah Kinsinger was forced to enter the game and play the remaining time in Clark-Silva’s absence.
Dahlseide’s assist on the Bulls’ final goal helped the second-year Bull push his point streak to 13 consecutive games, one game short of Studioso’s season-long stretch. Poczos wrapped up the game with his seventh win in as many decisions, making 11 saves on 14 Jr. Stars chances. Clark-Silva was tagged with the loss after making 21 saves.
The win also stretches the Bulls’ winning streak to four in a row, and runs their overall record to 19-6-0-0 for the season. Mid-Cities dropped to 14-9-1-0, with Clark-Silva’s individual record slipping to 8-6-1-0.
Both teams return to action Monday for the second day of the NA3HL Showcase, with the Bulls set to face the Northeast Generals of the Coastal Division. That game is set for a 1:30 p.m. puck drop at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, with exclusive streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns to home ice on January 4 for “Cinemania Night” against the New Ulm Steel, featuring appearances from some of your favorite movie characters, including the Minions, Frozen’s Olaf, Spiderman and Spongebob Squarepants. For advance tickets to that game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Mid Cities 0 2 1 – 3
North Iowa 2 1 3 – 6
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Studioso 14 (Petronack), 10:05. 2, North Iowa, Johnson 1 (Fagerlee, Escobar), 16:29. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Blackowiak 17 (McDermott, Bogach), 0:49. 4, Mid Cities, Linn 24 (HIgh), 13:14. 5, Mid Cities, Linn 25 (Plott), 18:03. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period-6, North Iowa, Blackowiak 18 (McDermott), 13:36. 7, North Iowa, Fagerlee 11 (Stewart), 14:10. 8, Mid Cities, Muckensturm 14 (Campbell), 14:51. 9, North Iowa, Junker 4 (Dahlseide), 15:14. Penalties-Wood Mid (tripping-minor), 1:42; Clark-Silva Mid (fighting-major, goalie fighting with blocker-match), 17:27.
Shots on Goal-Mid Cities 3-5-6-14. North Iowa 8-9-10-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Mid Cities 0 / 0; North Iowa 0 / 3.
Goalies-Mid Cities, Clark-Silva 8-6-1-0 (27 shots-21 saves). North Iowa, Poczos 7-0-0-0 (14 shots-11 saves).
Linesmen-Jack Young, Bryan Gorcoff.