MASON CITY, Iowa – The first two times the North Iowa Bulls grabbed the lead in Friday’s game against the New Ulm Steel, the lead simply didn’t stick. The Steel took advantage of their first-period chances and quickly evened the game both times.
After the first period, though, North Iowa made sure there was no catching up. The Bulls scored five unanswered goals, with the first coming in a late-period scoring outburst in the first, and ran away with a 7-2 victory at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena.
The victory gave the Bulls their 12th straight home win, dating back to last season, moving them to 10-3 on the season, while the Steel fell back to 2-8-1 with the defeat.
The first power play for North Iowa yielded their first goal of the night – Noah Rauschenberger’s interference minor at 6:28 gave the Bulls the man-advantage, and after a pass from Nick Mohs-Messerli (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) to the top of the slot, Caleb Huffman (Anchorage, Alaska/Team Alaska U18) took one step forward and fired the puck into the upper half of the net for a 1-0 lead just 7:20 in.
The lead held for five minutes – at 12:46, a turnaround chance from Corey Stormer at the top corner of the left-wing faceoff circle beat Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to tie the game at 1-1.
At 16:23, the lead landed in North Iowa hands again – a left-point toss from Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) grazed the top of the goal crease and found the stick of Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/North Iowa Bulls) on the back post for a tip-in and a 2-1 advantage. This time, the lead lasted all of 64 seconds, with Stormer snapping one past Babekuhl on a 2-on-1 rush to tie the game at 2-2.
The next goal from Max Savaloja (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial H.S.) finally gave the Bulls a lead that would stick – Ben Luedtke’s (Wayzata, Minn./Wayzata H.S.) pass from below the goal line found Savaloja out front for a tap-in and another North Iowa lead with 1:55 left in the period.
Erick Bromberg’s hooking minor at 2:30 of the second period put North Iowa back up a man, and Garrett Freeman’s (Sartell, Minn./Breezy Point North Stars) wrister from the top of the slot just 26 seconds later put the Bulls ahead by a 4-2 count.
Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Armstrong H.S.) made his mark on the contest six minutes later, thanks to a setup pass from Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) that found the North Iowa rookie on the doorstep for a successful one-timer. That goal at 8:55 gave the Bulls a 5-2 lead, and chased New Ulm newcomer Zach Foster from the net.
The Bulls would battle to add to their lead for most of the final period, and they finally broke through with 4:56 remaining – Nauss’s pass angled to Campion down the left-wing wall, and Campion walked to the bottom of the faceoff circle and found a tiny seam to sneak the puck past Griffin Foster for a four-goal lead.
With 1:05 remaining and just six seconds shy of their final power play of the night, Hayden Fox snuck a tough-angle backhand into the top corner of the net over Griffin Foster’s left shoulder, giving the Bulls a 4-on-4 tally and a 7-2 lead.
North Iowa was nearly perfect on special teams in Friday’s contest, going 3-for-5 on the power play and an unblemished 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. Savaloja and Nauss had three points each on the night, with Nauss’s three assists helping him maintain his team scoring lead. Savaloja had a goal and two helpers, while four other North Iowa players had a pair of points apiece.
“I think we played a more complete game (than last week’s 4-2 loss at New Ulm,” said Campion. “We played with pace – we played pretty fast. Crisper passes, communication, everything was big tonight, and it all came together well.”
Babekuhl earned his seventh win of the season with 20 saves on 22 New Ulm chances. Zach Foster took the loss in his Steel debut, making 12 saves on 17 North Iowa shots. Griffin Foster finished with a no-decision, making 13 saves in relief.
The Steel and Bulls battle it out again on Saturday night in Mason City, with the Bulls’ Bucks and Pucks Night, sponsored by Fleet Farm. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena., with live streaming coverage available on HockeyTV, and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
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. Click here to purchase advance tickets to any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game.
New Ulm 2 0 0 – 2
North Iowa 3 2 2 – 7
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Huffman 2 (Mohs-Messerli, Savaloja), 7:40 (PP). 2, New Ulm, Stormer 4 (Dorn), 12:46. 3, North Iowa, Isogai 7 (Nauss, Mohs-Messerli), 16:24. 4, New Ulm, Stormer 5 (Wieben), 17:27. 5, North Iowa, Savaloja 3 (Luedtke, Aguilera), 18:05. Penalties-Rauschenberger Num (interference-minor), 6:28; Isogai Nio (interference-minor), 10:14.
2nd Period-6, North Iowa, Freeman 7 (Savaloja, Uttech), 2:56 (PP). 7, North Iowa, Campion 5 (Jones, Heffron), 8:56. Penalties-Bromberg Num (hooking-minor), 2:30; Uttech Nio (interference-minor), 9:44; Rauschenberger Num (hooking-minor), 15:54.
3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Campion 6 (Nauss, Heffron), 15:04 (PP). 9, North Iowa, Fox 5 (Huffman, Nauss), 18:56. Penalties-Campion Nio (tripping-minor), 7:04; Savaloja Nio (slashing-minor), 10:39; Stormer Num (hooking-minor), 13:44; Savaloja Nio (interference-minor), 17:01; Wieben Num (tripping-minor), 18:18.
Shots on Goal-New Ulm 8-10-4-22. North Iowa 11-15-6-32.
Power Play Opportunities-New Ulm 0 / 5; North Iowa 3 / 5.
Goalies-New Ulm, Foster 2-1-0-0 (17 shots-12 saves); Foster 2-2-0-0 (15 shots-13 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 7-2-0-0 (22 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Jack Young, Phillip Kasko.
Linesmen-Evan Davis, Dylan Krikke.