WILLMAR, Minn. – After taking perennial NA3HL power Granite City to the brink on Friday night, the Willmar WarHawks came into Saturday’s tilt against North Iowa with an emotional lift and plenty of momentum.
That momentum ran out late in the first period, and the Bulls overwhelmed their hosts for a 12-2 victory. It was an overwhelming victory on a number of different fronts – North Iowa tossed 53 shots on the WarHawks’ net, put nine players in the scoring column and never spent more than a minute-and-a-half on any single power play before putting the puck in the net.
Sean Sullivan (Middleton, Wis./Madison Capitols 18U) opened the scoring for the Bulls just 4:45 into the contest, firing a slapshot from the left point past Luke Weberg. but a turnover at the North Iowa blue line allowed Eli Slagter to race the puck the other way and bury it past Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to tie the game with 11:02 left in the opening period.
The lead briefly belonged to the WarHawks on Marquez Ginger’s goal with just under three minutes to go in the first period, but Austin McNeil’s (Shakopee, Minn./Shakopee H.S.) goal right off of a faceoff with 1:12 to go squared the game going to the second period.
That goal was merely the first in a run that will carry the Bulls into next weekend’s contest against Granite City. Caleb Brownell’s holding minor at 3:24 of the second period put the Bulls back on the power play, and Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) ended the man-advantage with a goal from the inside corner of the right-wing faceoff circle a minute later to make it 3-2.
Back-to-back goals from Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) made it 5-2 going to the third period, including a deflection at the bottom of the slot with 1:19 left in the second period on yet another North Iowa power play.
It took just 1:40 for Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to add onto the lead in the final stanza, grabbing a pass right in front of Weberg and popping it into the net. Justin Daly (Delano, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) scored just 37 seconds later on a mid-slot blast to give the Bulls a 7-2 lead, and give Daly a goal in his first game with the Bulls.
“It was good being back on the ice again and fun skating with the boys,” said Daly. “It’s a good, fresh start. I’m looking forward to my season getting going, and getting more playing time.”
Down two goals in the race for the Bulls’ goal-scoring lead, Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) narrowed the gap with 9:36 to go, picking up his own rebound on a backhand shovel chance against reliever Luc Haggitt. Wahlin finished the hat trick barely two minutes later, poking the puck in after a save that initially left the puck sitting on the goal line.
A goal from Dahlseide with 4:15 to go and a redirected tally from Mason Enright (Farmington, Minn./Farmington H.S.) with under two minutes to go allowed North Iowa to put the finishing touches on a dominant four-point weekend.
“It’s just building momentum for next weekend,” said Wahlin. “It’s a big four points that we need next weekend (against Granite City).”
Wahlin and Daly each had four points in the contest to lead the way, and four other players racked up three points apiece. Babekuhl made 31 saves to earn his fifth win of the season, while Weberg took the loss with 30 saves on 37 North Iowa chances. Haggitt had 11 saves in relief, entering the game after Daly’s goal early in the third period.
The power play was as potent as ever for North Iowa, going 4-for-4 with the extra man Saturday night. A successful night against Breezy Point on Friday allowed the Bulls to finish the weekend with a 6-for-9 power play mark, after missing on 13 of their previous 14 chances.
North Iowa returns home next weekend for the team’s last jersey auction in the “Barn.” The team will wear special jerseys in both Friday and Saturday’s games against the Granite City Lumberjacks, with a jersey auction following Saturday night’s game to benefit the American Cancer Society. Both games get underway at 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
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.
North Iowa 2 3 7 – 12
Willmar 2 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Sullivan 4 (Dahlseide, Bowlin), 4:45 (PP). 2, Willmar, Slagter 6 8:58. 3, Willmar, Ginger 5 (Santarelli, Bender), 17:02. 4, North Iowa, McNeil 7 (Roo), 18:48. Penalties-Sylvester Wil (tripping-minor), 3:55.
2nd Period-5, North Iowa, Roo 11 (Fagerlee, Wagner), 4:24 (PP). 6, North Iowa, Wahlin 14 (Vercellono, Daly), 14:43. 7, North Iowa, Wahlin 15 (Daly, Nauss), 18:41 (PP). Penalties-Brownell Wil (holding-minor), 3:24; Roitman Nio (roughing-minor), 10:47; Lebsack Wil (tripping-minor), 17:10.
3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Dahlseide 10 (Bowlin, Isogai), 1:40. 9, North Iowa, Daly 1 (Vercellono, Wahlin), 2:17. 10, North Iowa, Roitman 2 (Enright, Sivets), 8:09. 11, North Iowa, Fagerlee 14 (Roo, Kubitz), 10:24. 12, North Iowa, Wahlin 16 (Daly, Vercellono), 12:27. 13, North Iowa, Dahlseide 11 (Isogai, Bowlin), 15:45. 14, North Iowa, Enright 5 (Nauss, McNeil), 18:02 (PP). Penalties-Rowell Wil (tripping-minor), 17:34; Slagter Wil (cross checking-minor), 18:36; Sullivan Nio (cross checking-minor), 18:37.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 21-14-18-53. Willmar 7-16-10-33.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 4 / 4; Willmar 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 5-1-0-0 (33 shots-31 saves). Willmar, Weberg 3-3-0-0 (37 shots-30 saves); Haggitt 2-3-0-1 (16 shots-11 saves).
Linesmen-Jake Caneff, David Berndgen.