SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – With 62 meetings in the books in the North Iowa Bulls’ first eight years, the rivalry between Todd Sanden’s team and the Granite City Lumberjacks has been a rivalry in every sense of the word. North Iowa led the season series by only four wins coming into the weekend, but the Lumberjacks had won seven straight and 11 of the last 13.
Meeting number 63 was everything the 842 fans in attendance at the Sports Arena East expected it would be, with the Bulls scrapping out a 5-2 victory, starting the season with five straight wins. North Iowa now stands at 34-24-5 in the all-time series against Granite City.
“It feels great. It’s a great stepping stone for the boys,” said Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.). “We’re just building momentum, and it felt good to get a win.”
The hosts had the upper hand early in the first two periods, with a wraparound goal from Blake Spetz just 4:10 into the contest and Nikolai Rajala giving the ‘Jacks their other goal just 2:09 into the second.
However, special teams were huge again for the Bulls, with a 3-for-6 finish on the power play. Spetz started his first-period shift with that goal, but he ended it in the penalty box on a cross checking penalty just 13 seconds later. The Bulls’ extra man only spent 26 seconds on the ice before Wahlin buried the tying goal, set up on a pass from Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) behind the net.
A penalty to Daymin Dodge later in the period proved costly even more quickly for Granite City. A boarding minor started the power play for North Iowa at 13:27 of the opening period, and it ended just six seconds later on Cam Fagerlee’s (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) third goal of the season, a snap from the right-wing faceoff dot.
Rajala’s goal came on a rebound kicked out wide by Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./North Iowa Bulls), after an initial shot from Dodge. That tied the game at 2-2, but Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) tallied his first goal of the year with a top-shelf marker at 5:17 of the second period to put the Bulls in the lead for good.
Wahlin found the back of the net again with 7:21 left on the second-period clock, off of a feed from Roo that rebounded off of Granite City goaltender Matt Fitzgerald. Jack Kubitz’s (Orono, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) goal with 1:59 remaining put the exclamation mark on the victory, with Kubitz walking through traffic in the right-wing faceoff circle and opening up a shooting lane at the edge of the slot.
Skinner picked up his first win against the Lumberjacks in six tries, making 34 saves. Fitzgerald made 21 saves in the loss, dropping the Lumberjacks to 2-1 for the year. After finishing 0-4-1 against Granite City a year ago, Skinner picked up the win in outing number six.
“This was a big monkey off the back,” said Skinner. “They had our number last year, but it was good to get the first win out of the way and come back dialed in for tomorrow.”
The Bulls’ penalty-killing unit was every bit as impressive, shutting down all six Granite City chances with the extra man. The Bulls have killed off 15 straight power play chances without allowing a goal, as the teams head into a rematch on Saturday evening. The opening puck drop at the Sports Arena East in Sauk Rapids is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV.
Tickets are available now for the Bulls’ final home opener in the North Iowa Ice Arena, October 4 against the Willmar WarHawks. The last home-opening bash at the “Barn” will feature a pregame tailgate party, a postgame skate, free koozies with all paid adult admissions, free kids’ admission and more. The latest news and information on Bulls hockey is always available by calling 641-423-4625, visiting www.northiowabulls.com, or following the Bulls on social media. To purchase advance tickets to any Bulls home game this season, click here.
North Iowa 2 2 1 – 5
Granite City 1 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Granite City, Spetz 2 (Sommers, Dahlheimer), 4:10. 2, North Iowa, Wahlin 4 (Roo, Callahan), 4:49 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Fagerlee 3 (Nauss, Bowlin), 13:33 (PP). Penalties-Spetz Gcy (cross checking-minor), 4:23; Larson Gcy (slashing-minor), 4:49; Dahlseide Nio (roughing-minor), 6:34; Dodge Gcy (boarding-minor), 13:27; Nauss Nio (roughing-minor), 16:42.
2nd Period-4, Granite City, Rajala 3 (Dodge, Jangula), 2:09. 5, North Iowa, Dahlseide 1 (Bowlin), 5:17. 6, North Iowa, Wahlin 5 (Roo), 12:39. Penalties-Flattum Gcy (slashing-minor), 5:37; Sullivan Nio (slashing-minor), 7:04; Sivets Nio (roughing-minor), 11:01; Johnson Gcy (roughing-minor), 11:01; Smidt Nio (head contact-major, head contact-gm), 13:38; Fagerlee Nio (tripping-minor), 14:39.
3rd Period-7, North Iowa, Kubitz 1 (Fagerlee, Bowlin), 18:01 (PP). Penalties-Fagerlee Nio (tripping-minor), 1:27; Dahlseide Nio (checking from behind-minor, checking from behind-10 misc), 6:02; Simon Gcy (boarding-minor), 6:02; Sommers Gcy (kneeing-minor), 16:22.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 11-9-6-26. Granite City 13-16-7-36.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 3 / 5; Granite City 0 / 6.
Goalies-North Iowa, Skinner 2-0-0-0 (36 shots-34 saves). Granite City, Fitzgerald 1-1-0-0 (26 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Tyler Willie, Jake Caneff.