WILLMAR, Minn. – Halloween is just one night away, and the North Iowa Bulls left one impression and one impression only with the Willmar WarHawks and their fans on Friday night:
This team is frighteningly good.
The Bulls set a franchise record with eight goals in the first period, scaring up a 13-3 win over the WarHawks, landing one goal shy of the high-water mark in series history.
Just three minutes into the game, North Iowa sprinted onto the scoreboard first as Nick Mohs-Messerli (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) hit Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) with a tape-to-tape pass across the slot, and Newpower flicked the puck past Willmar starter Hunter Burian for the 1-0 lead.
The Bulls’ offense hit a full sprint as the first period’s midway point neared – Isaac Lindstrom (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) fed a pass to Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at the front of the net on a 2-on-0, and Eha tapped it in at the 9:07 mark of the period. Just 24 seconds later, Dalton Saltness (Forest Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) finished a three-week absence from the North Iowa lineup by dangling the puck past Burian for a 3-0 lead.
A boarding penalty against Shota Kaneko (Tokyo, Japan/Team Japan U20) hardly fazed the North Iowa attack – a stretch pass from Mohs-Messerli found Sean Sullivan (Middleton, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) streaking through neutral ice, and Sullivan used some handy moves of his own to beat the Willmar netminder and push the lead to 4-0 with 6:23 left in the period.
If the Bulls’ offense was already sprinting, it hit hyperdrive in the final four minutes of the opening stanza – Eha’s pass across the crease found Lindstrom on the opposite post for a quick tap-in and a five-goal lead.
Then the Bulls took advantage of a delayed penalty to Tanner Hallett, and Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/North Iowa Bulls) hit the top half for a 6-0 lead. Kaneko added a rebound tally with 2:04 to go, and Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Armstrong-Cooper H.S.) poked one into the top corner less than 30 seconds later just for good measure, as North Iowa headed to the locker room with their only 8-0 first-period lead in team history.
“The boys were not happy with how we played last week (against Willmar and Alexandria),” said Sullivan. “The main talk was coming out and having a good start tonight and the boys came through. The scoreboard showed it, so we’re hoping we can carry that into tomorrow.”
The WarHawks had a rapid response, though, getting on the board on a sneak into the upper corner from Owen Thomas at the 2:13 mark of the second period. Lucas Jorgenson (Orono, Minn./Holy Family H.S.) would get one right back at the 7:06 mark from the right-wing faceoff circle, though, giving North Iowa a 9-1 lead.
Finally, in the second period, a checking-from-behind call against Ben Johnson gave North Iowa its first power play of the night. Garrett Freeman (Sartell, Minn./Breezy Point North Stars) made it a costly one with a snap from the slot with 8:15 left in the period, giving the Bulls a 10-1 advantage.
Campion and Isogai made their returns to the scoresheet in the waning minutes of the second period, with Brayden Uttech (Sun Prairie, Wis./Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings) helping to push the lead to double figures on a one-timer to Campion. His tap-in with 3:29 to go made it 11-1, and the Bulls returned to the locker room with a 12-1 lead thanks to Isogai’s shorthanded wraparound with 57 seconds remaining.
The WarHawks narrowly missed power-play tallies twice in the final period, with Drew Sandy sneaking in a wrist shot to the back post at 5:06 of the third period, just seven seconds after an interference penalty against Gijs De Schepper (Nieuwenrode, Belgium/Coulee Region Chill) expired. Louis Anders’s shot on Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) bounced out to Cayden Sunde with six minutes left and Sunde put the second chance away, just 41 seconds after Uttech’s penalty for goaltender interference came to a close.
North Iowa got its 10-goal margin back with 5:09 to go, as Jorgenson cranked one off of the stick of Bulls newcomer Max Savaloja (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial H.S.) past backup goaltender Luke Weberg to finish off the scoring.
Sullivan was one of several headliners for the North Iowa offense, finishing with a goal and two assists. Six other players also finished with three points apiece, including Campion and Isogai, who scored twice each. Only three North Iowa skaters went without a goal in Friday’s game.
The Bulls closed out the night with a perfect 8-for-8 mark on special teams, scoring on both of their power-play chances and holding Willmar off the board on all six of theirs.
Babekuhl came home with the victory, making 22 saves on the WarHawks’ 25 shots. Burian made just seven saves on North Iowa’s first 13 chances before exiting the game with 2:37 left in the first period. Weberg finished the night, making 13 saves on 20 shots. The Bulls scored at or around a 50-percent clip for all of the game’s first 40 minutes before fading slightly in the third period.
“They’re a lot better than last year,” said Sullivan. “We can never underestimate them – we just have to come out in the first (period) in every game like we did today, and hopefully the same score will happen.”
After hosting Friday night, Willmar makes the return trip to Mason City on Saturday night, as the Bulls celebrate Halloween with “Boos & Brews.” The opening puck drop at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr. To purchase advance tickets to any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls’ 10th Anniversary season are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 8 4 1 – 13
Willmar 0 1 2 – 3
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Newpower 2 (Mohs-Messerli), 3:01. 2, North Iowa, Eha 1 (Lindstrom, Sullivan), 9:07. 3, North Iowa, Saltness 3 (Lindstrom, Eha), 9:31. 4, North Iowa, Sullivan 1 (Mohs-Messerli, Isogai), 13:37 (SH). 5, North Iowa, Lindstrom 2 (Eha, Saltness), 16:04. 6, North Iowa, Isogai 4 (Freeman, Savaloja), 17:23. 7, North Iowa, Kaneko 2 (Newpower, Mohs-Messerli), 17:56. 8, North Iowa, Campion 2 (Bellig, Uttech), 18:25. Penalties-Kaneko Nio (boarding-minor), 11:50; Hallett Wil (kneeing-minor), 17:23.
2nd Period-9, Willmar, Thomas 1 (Sandy, Willis), 2:13. 10, North Iowa, Jorgenson 2 (Sullivan, Savaloja), 7:06. 11, North Iowa, Freeman 3 (Nauss, Campion), 11:45 (PP). 12, North Iowa, Campion 3 (Uttech, Cichosz), 16:31 (PP). 13, North Iowa, Isogai 5 19:03 (SH). Penalties-Johnson Wil (checking from behind-minor), 10:33; De Schepper Nio (holding-minor), 12:31; Hallett Wil (hooking-minor), 14:47; Saltness Nio (slashing-minor), 17:55.
3rd Period-14, Willmar, Sandy 2 (Jozwick, Wigestrand), 5:06. 15, Willmar, Sunde 2 (Anders, DeKraai), 13:59. 16, North Iowa, Savaloja 1 (Jorgenson, Aguilera), 14:51. Penalties-De Schepper Nio (interference-minor), 2:59; Uttech Nio (slashing-minor), 5:46; Uttech Nio (goalie interference-minor), 11:18; Nauss Nio (roughing-minor), 12:56; Sweetland Wil (roughing-minor), 12:56; Sunde Wil (unsportsmanlike conduct – 10 minute), 16:15.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 17-8-8-33. Willmar 6-10-9-25.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 2 / 2; Willmar 0 / 6.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 3-2-0-0 (25 shots-22 saves). Willmar, Burian 0-2-0-0 (13 shots-7 saves); Weberg 2-1-0-0 (20 shots-13 saves).
Linesmen-Gavin Jocelyn, Tyler Willie.