PEORIA, Ill. – With less than 13 minutes left in the third period, Sunday’s Bulls-Mustangs tilt at the Owens Center looked to be headed in the same direction as Saturday’s, with North Iowa heading off the ice towing a loss. A furious comeback, including both a game-tying and game-winning tally from Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.), changed the whole storyline, though, and sent North Iowa home to the Hawkeye State with a 4-3 win and a weekend split in downstate Illinois.
After posting two assists in Saturday night’s win Austin Wisely went back to work for the home team at the 14:40 mark of the first period, taking a cross-ice feed from Thomas Kolaz and ripping home a sharp-angle wrist shot for his first goal of the season. Wisely assisted on a power play tally from Zach Cox with 3:51 left in the second period, and the Mustang lead went to three goals at the 18:26 mark on Jordan Hillman’s tap-in rebound tally.
That’s when the Bulls started their charge – Mitch Parsons (Grandville, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) snapped the shutout with 12:09 left on a snap shot from just inside the right faceoff circle and Logan Miller (Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie H.S.) drawing a pair of defenders in the low slot to set up the open look. In a 41-second span, the game went from a 3-1 contest to a tie – Zach Hayes (Bartlett, Ill./Team Illinois) made his North Iowa scoring debut, deflecting in a point shot just below the crossbar at 12:48 of the period. With 6:31 left on the regulation clock, Lucas McKinnon (Mason City, Iowa/Appleton United) skated the puck into the corner to Jaden Gardner’s left before hitting Clemons on the doorstep for the game-tying one-timer tap-in.
The overtime period was a brief one, and only included one shot – Clemons found himself on a breakaway before taking a two-handed slash and earning a penalty shot. With a one-on-the-goalie shot, Clemons didn’t miss, burying the winner from the middle of the slot.
Keying the victory for the visitors was a late push on the offensive end of the ice – the shot count was tied at 16 going to the third period, with Daniel Swail (Lakeville, Minn./Colorado Thunderbirds) making only 13 saves in his first 40 minutes in a Bulls uniform. After the second intermission, though, it was all North Iowa – 18 of the final 20 shots on goal came off of Bulls sticks, with four of those 18 striking twine. Gardner ended the day with 30 saves on 34 shots. Swail finished with 15 saves in 18 opportunities for his first North Iowa Bulls victory.
With the first weekend of the regular season in the books, it’s back to the practice rink for Todd Sanden’s group, with no games on the schedule for the upcoming weekend. Next up on the schedule is a visit to the St. Louis Jr. Blues on Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept. 24. Both games at the Affton Ice Rink in Affton, Mo. are set for 7 p.m. starts.