NEW ULM, Minn. – The North Iowa Bulls chose “Decade of Dominance” as their theme for the 2020-21 season not simply as a celebration of where they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished in the past, but as a nod to how high the bar is set going forward, and where the program would like to be in the future.
With their latest milestone accomplishment, both bars are set pretty high.
North Iowa earned a 4-1 win over the New Ulm Steel, earning win number 400 in franchise history and giving Bulls head coach Todd Sanden his 400th win as the team’s head coach. The longtime bench boss has seen the team through the thick and thin of every single season since the team first stepped on the ice in the fall of 2011.
The milestone includes all of the team’s regular-season, postseason and USA Hockey national tournament wins, as well as a pair of late additions to the schedule against the Topeka Capitals in the 2013-14 season. Due to the late addition, the games were officially counted as exhibition contests for the Bulls, but were considered official contests for the Capitals. It does not include the team’s three wins over national prep power Shattuck-St. Mary’s, as they did not come against junior competition.
“Going back to year one, with people getting on board with our program, it was basically me selling them on what we could do in [the Mason City] community,” said Sanden. “Right from the get-go, with the support in town and the support from the great families and great players, we’ve reached some amazing milestones.
The Bulls grabbed the lead at the 6:52 mark of the opening period, when Garrett Freeman (Sartell, Minn./Breezy Point North Stars) fed Jac Triemert (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) out front for a quick one-timer that beat Zac Hattan, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. Patrick Wyers’s (Minnetonka, Minn./Omaha U18 AAA) pass to Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/North Iowa Bulls) less than three-and-a-half minutes later came from the bottom of the left-wing faceoff circle, and Isogai snapped one into the top corner for a 2-0 North Iowa lead.
North Iowa raced out to a 17-8 lead in the shot count in the first 20 minutes, but the Steel were able to play virtually even with their visitors over the final two periods in that category.
The Bulls kept adding on in the scoring column, though – a shot from Ben Tarlton (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury H.S.) at the top of the zone dropped in front of Hattan, and a waiting Lucas Jorgenson (Orono, Minn./Holy Family H.S.) was able to poke it in for a 3-0 lead at the 7:46 mark of the second period.
With just over eight minutes remaining in the third, New Ulm finally got their answer. After taking a pass just below the blue line from Tommy Broten, Joey Gimberlin took advantage of the extra space on a 4-on-3 chance, walking one to the top of the left-wing faceoff circle and snapping one past Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) on the short side for a power play goal to trim the lead to 3-1.
With 3:05 to go and Brayden Uttech (Sun Prairie, Wis./Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings) in the penalty box on a roughing call, the Steel made their move, pulling Hattan for a virtual two-man advantage. The move nearly paid off, until Campbell Cichosz’s down-ice heave landed at the New Ulm end of the rink – Isogai won a footrace to the puck and wrapped it around the post with 1:18 remaining to ice the win.
“I thought we were good in all three periods,” said Sanden. “I thought we had a lot of jump at the start of the game, which was something we were looking to improve from the last couple of games. I thought the boys played hard tonight, but I’m looking forward to getting back into a smaller rink at home. The big ice was a lot to handle for our guys at times tonight.”
Isogai finished with two goals for the only multi-point game of the night. Babekuhl made 31 saves, earning his second win of the season, while Hattan took the loss behind a 38-save performance.
North Iowa saw its run of consecutive penalty kills end at 16, but limited the Steel to 1-for-3 with the extra man. The Bulls finished 0-for-2 on the man-advantage, including a three-second power play to end the contest.
The Bulls rose to 3-1 for the season with the victory, while the Steel fell to 0-4 with the loss. The teams are set for a rematch Saturday night at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, with a 7:30 p.m. opening puck drop. Live streaming coverage of Saturday’s game is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Saturday’s game is “Hocktoberfest” for the Bulls, with regular domestic canned beer marked down to just $2. Fans can also pick up a free puck and mini-stick with a purchase of $25 or more at Brutus’s Locker Room Sponsored by Christie Door Company. To purchase advance tickets to any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, click here.
North Iowa 2 1 1 – 4
New Ulm 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Triemert 1 (Freeman, Snedden), 6:52. 2, North Iowa, Isogai 2 (Wyers), 10:15. Penalties-Uttech Nio (holding-minor), 13:33; Zowin Num (hooking-minor), 13:33.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Jorgenson 1 (Tarlton, De Schepper), 7:46. Penalties-Klus Num (hooking-minor), 7:46; Lien Nio (slashing-minor), 9:27; Zowin Num (tripping-minor), 19:54.
3rd Period-4, New Ulm, Gimberlin 3 (Broten, Stormer), 11:51 (PP). 5, North Iowa, Isogai 3 (Cichosz), 18:42 (SH EN). Penalties-Tarlton Nio (roughing-minor), 10:46; Delange Num (cross checking-minor), 10:46; Snedden Nio (slashing-minor), 11:17; Uttech Nio (roughing-minor), 16:55; Curti Num (roughing-minor), 19:57.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 17-15-10-42. New Ulm 8-15-9-32.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 1; New Ulm 1 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 2-1-0-0 (32 shots-31 saves). New Ulm, Hattan 0-3-0-0 (41 shots-38 saves).
Linesmen-Quentin Gabriel, Reilly Hickey.