MASON CITY, Iowa – At the halfway mark of North Iowa’s game against the Alexandria Blizzard on Saturday night, the Bulls found themselves in a bit of a pickle.
Or at least that’s what the scoreboard said. Ask anyone on the North Iowa bench, and you’ll get a very different story. The Bulls found themselves down 2-0 at the 30-minute mark before scoring three in a row to roar back and take a 5-3 win over the Blizzard. With the win, North Iowa extends its home winning streak against Alexandria to 13 straight ahead of a run of three straight games against the New Ulm Steel.
The first period was as even as could be, with each team putting eight chances on net but landing off the scoreboard entirely. Just 2:19 into the second period, though, a stretch pass from Jered Sanborn found Dallas Duckson at neutral ice, and his pass went to Carter Rieland in front of the net. His slick moves helped him put the puck past Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) for a 1-0 lead.
A hooking call against Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) set Alexandria up for its second goal of the night – Kaden Peterson’s blue-line blast beat Babekuhl straight down the slot to further stretch their superiority.
That 2-0 lead lasted barely a minute – a backhand toss down the slot bounced out front to Max Savaloja (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial H.S.), who stuffed it home to cut the lead back to a goal with 9:35 left in the period.
That strike only emboldened Todd Sanden’s team – with just under six minutes left in the period, Nauss threw a shot to the Alexandria net from the blue line, missing off the glass behind the cage. The rebound evaded Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), but Garrett Freeman (Sartell, Minn./Breezy Point North Stars) was waiting out front to put away the rebound and tie the game at 2-2.
With 4:03 left in the period, the Bulls made their move for the lead – a give-and-go between Brayden Uttech (Sun Prairie, Wis./Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings) and Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) landed on Newpower’s stick in front of the Alexandria net, and he tipped the puck past Joey Greilich to give the Bulls their first lead heading into the third period.
That lead would last only 40 seconds out of the locker room – off of a turnover just below the North Iowa blue line, Cole Jacobs raced the puck down the left wing and snapped it past Babekuhl on the rush, giving the Blizzard new life and a 3-3 tie.
That was the last time Alexandria would score in the game – at the 3:06 mark of the third, Brady Snedden (Eagle River, Wis./Northland Pines H.S.) snuck a pass across the bottom of the slot for Isaac Lindstrom (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) to tap in on the backdoor, giving the Bulls the lead for good at 4-3.
Another power play chance gave the Bulls the opening they needed to add on one final time with 6:16 to play – a rink-wide pass snuck through to Freeman in the left-wing circle, and his short-side rip put North Iowa in front by the game’s final 5-3 tally.
“It was good knocking the wind out of their sails, especially when they were buzzing in that third period when they got one quick one,” said Freeman. ”
Freeman ended the game with a pair of goals, while Carter Eha, Ben Luedtke (Wayzata, Minn./Wayzata H.S.) and Campbell Cichosz (Albert Lea, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) took home two assists apiece. North Iowa’s special teams were exemplary once again, with the power-play unit wrapping up at 2-for-3 and the penalty kill finishing 3-for-4. Babekuhl made 29 saves for his fifth win of the season, while Greilich finished with 21 saves in the loss, falling to 2-3 on the year.
North Iowa did it all in front of eight returning alumni, who came back to help the team celebrate its “Decade Of Dominance” weekend, featuring a postgame jersey auction Saturday night.
The Bulls move to 9-2 on the year with the victory, earning their fourth straight win ahead of their road trip to New Ulm next Friday night. Alexandria heads to Granite City next Friday, carrying a 5-4-1 record back to Minnesota. North Iowa’s puck drop with the Steel next week is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at the New Ulm Civic Center, with live streaming on HockeyTV.
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.
Alexandria 0 2 1 – 3
North Iowa 0 3 2 – 5
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Savaloja Nio (boarding-minor), 12:44; Tushie Alx (boarding-minor), 18:41.
2nd Period-1, Alexandria, Rieland 3 (Duckson, Sanborn), 2:19. 2, Alexandria, Peterson 1 (Strong, Kenny), 9:25 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Savaloja 2 (Luedtke, Eha), 10:25. 4, North Iowa, Freeman 5 (Nauss, Eha), 14:04 (PP). 5, North Iowa, Newpower 5 (Uttech, Cichosz), 15:57. Penalties-Nauss Nio (hooking-minor), 8:04; Kenny Alx (hooking-minor), 13:04; Eha Nio (cross checking-minor), 16:34.
3rd Period-6, Alexandria, Jacobs 3 (Tushie, McNeil), 0:40. 7, North Iowa, Lindstrom 4 (Snedden, Luedtke), 3:07. 8, North Iowa, Freeman 6 (Cichosz, Huffman), 13:44 (PP). Penalties-Strong Alx (high sticking-minor), 13:27; Heffron Nio (slashing-minor), 15:20.
Shots on Goal-Alexandria 8-13-11-32. North Iowa 8-10-8-26.
Power Play Opportunities-Alexandria 1 / 4; North Iowa 2 / 3.
Goalies-Alexandria, Greilich 2-3-0-0 (26 shots-21 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 6-2-0-0 (32 shots-29 saves).
Linesmen-Nicholas Bradshaw, J. Morrison.