MASON CITY, IOWA – North Iowa went four straight games against the cream of the NA3HL crop without scoring a single power-play goal.
By watching the Bulls’ special teams on Saturday night, you wouldn’t know there was ever a struggle. North Iowa scored on all five of its power-play chances in a 12-2 win over the Breezy Point North Stars, running their winning streak to three games and keeping pace with the Alexandria Blizzard for third place in the West Division.
A pass from Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) caught Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) behind goaltender Max Eilefson just 4:27 into the contest, and Verstegen tapped it in for a quick power play goal and a 1-0 lead. Another tap-in goal just 2:14 later from Verstegen made it a 2-0 game.
“Pete Verstegen is an awesome leader of our team as a captain,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “He gets different linemates virtually every weekend, but he centered [Jordan] Roo (Champlin, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret H.S.) and Escobar tonight and he was really good tonight. His character is outstanding and his work ethic is second-to-none.”
The lead looked to be destined for a two-goal margin headed to the intermission before Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./Milwaukee Jr. Admirals) plunked one in off of Marco Escobar (Plainfield, Ill./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede 18U) in front of the net with just six seconds remaining.
The second period was especially friendly to the Bulls’ power play unit. Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) found the back of the net on a one-timer from Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) on one of those extra chances at 5:32 of the second period for a 3-0 lead.
Back-to-back power play goals from Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) at 7:17 of the second period and Dahlseide at 9:25 quickly pushed the lead to 6-0. Braeden Zaste found Cooper Hoheisel up the right wing at 11:32, though, and beat Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede 18U) to bust up the shutout.
Stewart himself put one in the net with a quick answer just 38 seconds later, going top-shelf to beat Dan Fielding on another power play and push the lead back to six goals. A weak-side rebound from Jack Giddings (Anoka, Minn./Anoka H.S.) with 5:13 to go before the break and a Gunner Bourassa tally with just 37 seconds on the clock sent the Bulls to the dressing room with an 8-2 lead.
The third-period scoring summary featured no goals on the man-advantage, but it was all Bulls all the way. With Giddings waiting in front just in case, Dahlseide buried the opening goal of the period at the six-minute mark to stretch the lead to 9-2. The Bulls hit double-figures on McDermott’s pitch into the net at the 8:35 mark of the period.
Once North Iowa hit double digits, the scoring belonged to Escobar – his second goal of the night came on the penalty kill thanks to an interference minor moments before on Ivan Bogach (Brooklyn, N.Y./North Iowa Bulls). With a delayed penalty call in play, Escobar scored on a scramble in front of the net with 7:13 on the third-period clock. With 5:01 showing, Escobar capped the night and his own hat trick with a wraparound stuff-in past Fielding’s right leg.
After an 0-for-27 stretch on the power play, North Iowa has rocketed up the special-teams charts over the last five games, putting away 10 of their last 21 chances with the extra man. They’ve also done a fine job down a man, with Escobar’s shorthanded tally marking the team’s fourth this year.
“A catalyst on that power play was Matt Dahlseide,” said Sanden. “Matt was really efficient tonight, and setting guys up and getting himself good looks to score on the power play.”
Skinner climbed back above .500 with a 27-save performance on 29 Breezy Point chances. North Iowa solved Eilefson to the tune of five goals on 19 shots, and Fielding made 20 stops on 27 more opportunities. The North Stars went scoreless on their three power play opportunities in the game.
The Bulls’ three-game winning streak matches a season high, as Sanden’s team climbs to 8-5-0-0 for the year. Breezy Point drops to 2-10-1-0 with the loss ahead of a midweek game at the Willmar WarHawks.
North Iowa’s seven-game homestand continues Friday and Saturday night as the Bulls “Pink the Rink” with special jerseys Friday and Saturday to benefit the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life. Those jerseys will be auctioned off following Saturday’s game. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. both nights, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV. Saturday’s game will also be audio-streamed on Mixlr. For advance tickets to next weekend’s games or any upcoming North Iowa home game, click here.
Breezy Point 0 2 0 – 2
North Iowa 3 5 4 – 12
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Verstegen 8 (Dahlseide, Stewart), 4:27 (PP). 2, North Iowa, Verstegen 9 (Roo, Bogach), 6:41. 3, North Iowa, Escobar 4 (Stewart, Roo), 19:54. Penalties-Stewart Nio (tripping-minor), 2:07; Kitchen Bzp (tripping-minor), 4:14.
2nd Period-4, North Iowa, Studioso 7 (Blackowiak, Verstegen), 5:32 (PP). 5, North Iowa, McDermott 4 (Blackowiak, Petronack), 7:17 (PP). 6, North Iowa, Dahlseide 6 (Stewart, Fagerlee), 9:25 (PP). 7, Breezy Point, Hoheisel 5 (Zaste, Kitchen), 11:32. 8, North Iowa, Stewart 3 (Dahlseide, Fagerlee), 12:10 (PP). 9, North Iowa, Giddings 3 (Dahlseide, Fagerlee), 14:47. 10, Breezy Point, Bourassa 3 (Curran, Berkowitz), 19:23. Penalties-Escobar Nio (hooking-minor), 2:02; Hoheisel Bzp (cross checking-minor), 4:11; Bourassa Bzp (cross checking-minor), 7:05; Bourassa Bzp (hooking-minor), 8:42; Wisegarver Bzp (high sticking-minor), 11:56.
3rd Period-11, North Iowa, Dahlseide 7 (Fagerlee, Bogach), 6:00. 12, North Iowa, McDermott 5 (Blackowiak, Studioso), 8:35. 13, North Iowa, Escobar 5 (Petronack), 12:47 (SH). 14, North Iowa, Escobar 6 (Roo, Junker), 14:59. Penalties-Wisegarver Bzp (elbowing-minor), 9:47; Giddings Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 9:47; Bogach Nio (interference-minor), 11:09; Bourassa Bzp (hooking-minor), 12:47; Hoheisel Bzp (tripping-minor), 16:19; Wisegarver Bzp (roughing-double minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 16:19; McDermott Nio (roughing-double minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 16:19; Stewart Nio (slashing-major), 16:19; Stewart Nio (slashing-gm), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Breezy Point 11-11-8-30. North Iowa 15-12-19-46.
Power Play Opportunities-Breezy Point 0 / 3; North Iowa 5 / 5.
Goalies-Breezy Point, Eilefson 1-6-1-0 (19 shots-14 saves); Fielding 1-0-0-0 (27 shots-20 saves). North Iowa, Skinner 3-2-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Edward Ill.