MASON CITY, Iowa – The Willmar WarHawks took a lead early in their road game against the North Iowa Bulls on Saturday night, and showed their heart in the third period when the Bulls had taken a lead of their own. However, the Bulls played the Grinch to Willmar’s hopes of a win in the “Barn” with a 2-1 victory.
The opening goal of the night came just 1:39 in, as Hunter Hall led the Warhawks up the left wing and ripped one over the left shoulder of North Iowa netminder Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) for his first goal as a WarHawk.
The Bulls dominated the shots-on-goal count from the start, taking a 15-5 margin to the second period, and racking up a 29-12 advantage going to the 40-minute break. However, Willmar played most of the first period and most of the second with that 1-0 lead.
North Iowa finally solved the WarHawks on one of their many trips up the ice with several scoring opportunities. With a crowd of defenders in front of the net around Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls), Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) snuck a pass to Verstegen, who tapped it in for the equalizer.
“Popping that first one, getting past their goalie, that was goal number one for sure (going to the second period),” said Verstegen. “Tonight was a tight game, and that first goal (Friday and Saturday) really rallied the boys. It gave us a push to get those two wins.”
Going to the third, it looked as if the next goal might win it. That proved to be true, and Willmar’s Trent Sylvester happened to be the one to open the door with a tripping penalty at the 10:48 mark of the third. Just 18 seconds later, a pass from Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) set up Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to beat Nelson Schiiler from his right side for a 2-1 lead.
Willmar never tied the game back up, despite getting Schiiler out of the net with 1:40 to go. However, the WarHawks would have to briefly send the Alberta native back into net after a seventh skater strayed onto the ice, picking up a too-many-men penalty with 1:27 to go.
Skinner finished the night with his fifth straight win, making 17 saves on 18 WarHawk shots to move to 8-2-0-0 on the season. The loss went to Nelson Schiiler, who stopped 43 of the Bulls’ 45 chances.
North Iowa has won 13 of its last 14 games, moving to 18-6-0-0 on the season. The Bulls have tied Granite City for first place in the NA3HL West Division points race, but the Lumberjacks remain in first place by percentage points, with two games in hand on the Bulls. Willmar fell to 3-19-2-0 with the loss.
“They got a couple of new guys on their roster and they’ve gotten a momentum boost,” said Blackowiak. “We didn’t have the best week of practice either, but we still found a way to get four points this week.”
Dahlseide’s assist on the game-tying goal in the second period was his third of the weekend, moving his point streak to 12 straight games. After a slow start to the year, Blackowiak has gotten hot as well, with points in 13 of his last 15. Bowlin has quietly built quite a streak of his own, with points in nine of 10.
North Iowa will not play on home ice again until January 4, when the New Ulm Steel stop by at the front end of a home-and-home weekend. The Bulls start a three-game run at the NA3HL Showcase on Sunday afternoon, with a 4 p.m. faceoff against the Mid-Cities Jr. Stars at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine, Minnesota. Live streaming coverage of the NA3HL Showcase is available exclusively on HockeyTV.
“The Showcase will be a big event for us,” said Blackowiak. “We’ll play three games in three days and then be off for Christmas.
The Bulls celebrate College Night in their return to home ice against the Steel. For advance tickets to that game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Willmar 1 0 0 – 1
North Iowa 0 1 1 – 2
1st Period-1, Willmar, Hall 1 (Sylvester), 1:39. Penalties-Rollo Wil (tripping-minor), 5:19; Carlson Nio (checking from behind-minor, checking from behind-10 misc), 14:50; Ginger Wil (interference-minor), 17:10.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Verstegen 20 (Dahlseide, Bogach), 12:20. Penalties-Sylvester Wil (cross checking-minor), 5:25; Fagerlee Nio (roughing-minor), 5:25; Jackson Wil (tripping-minor), 7:01; Bogach Nio (tripping-minor), 8:04; Pitleck Wil (holding-minor), 16:28.
3rd Period-3, North Iowa, Blackowiak 16 (Bowlin, Junker), 11:06 (PP). Penalties-Petronack Nio (interference-minor), 8:45; Sylvester Wil (tripping-minor), 10:48; served by Haberman Wil (too many men-minor), 13:03; VanDeVere Wil (roughing-minor), 13:14; Blackowiak Nio (roughing-minor), 13:14; Bowlin Nio (roughing-minor), 13:14; served by Haberman Wil (too many men-minor), 18:33.
Shots on Goal-Willmar 5-7-6-18. North Iowa 15-14-16-45.
Power Play Opportunities-Willmar 0 / 4; North Iowa 1 / 7.
Goalies-Willmar, Schiiler 0-2-0-0 (45 shots-43 saves). North Iowa, Skinner 8-2-0-0 (18 shots-17 saves).
Linesmen-Nick Klinkhammer, Troy Dubay.