MINOT, N.D. – The pace belonged to Minot. The scoring chances belonged to Minot.
North Iowa took extra care in the third period to make sure the game wouldn’t belong to the Minotauros, too.
After heading into the locker room trailing 2-1 and behind 37-9 in the shots-on-goal count, the Bulls ripped off five goals in the third period, including four straight, to carry home a 6-3 win. The victory also sealed a weekend sweep against Minot, as well as sole possession of first place in the North American Hockey League’s Central Division with co-leader Austin sitting idle on Saturday.
After rattling off three goals in the opening period Friday night, the scoring was much slower to come on Saturday. With 4:24 remaining in the first period, Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Twin City Thunder) skated into the Minot zone, took a step to his right and snapped a forehand shot past Carter Clafton from just inside the faceoff circle, finally giving North Iowa the 1-0 lead.
The Minotauros took the shots-on-goal count in the first period, 16-6, and tacked on another 21-3 advantage over the middle period. The second period saw the hosts grab the lead on a pair of goals just 98 seconds apart – Colby Joseph tied the game at 11:21 of the period, with his first shot clipping the shaft of Hunter Garvey’s (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) stick and knocking it out of his hand, and the rebound came out front for Joseph to put away for a five-hole tally.
With 7:01 remaining in the second, David Nesburg drove the puck down the left wing, looking to center the puck to a teammate – the pass was blocked back to him, and Garvey was able to stop the initial shot, but Nesburg scraped the second chance home for the Minotauros’ only lead of the night.
The Minotauros were almost able to make it a 3-1 game, with Zack Simon finding Cole Mickel out front for a one-timer on a 4-on-4 and a delayed penalty call with 4:46 left in the period – Mickel’s shot caught both posts and rode the goal line, but never fully crossed into the net, leaving the lead at a single goal going to the third.
At that point, North Iowa set to work in leaving its mark on the game – at 2:02 of the third period, Jack Mesic’s (Plymouth, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) toss toward the net from the right point caught Max Scott’s (San Jose, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) stick in front of the net, and his re-direct briefly tied the game at 2-2.
The tie lasted less than two minutes – just 3:55 into the period, Clafton’s clearing attempt was picked off by Simone Dadie (Brunico, Italy/Okanagan Europe U20) in the corner, who fed the puck to Hunter Bulger (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) out front – his first chance banked off the end boards, and the long bounce allowed him to stuff home a second-chance goal and claim the lead.
That gave North Iowa the lead it would never relinquish, but the Bulls added on less than two minutes later – at 5:39, eight seconds into a Minot power play off of a tripping call against Michael Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Honeybaked 16U AAA), Chris Carroll (Islip, N.Y./Amarillo Bulls) would chip the puck down the left-wing wall to Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls), who outran the Minotauro defenders and slipped the puck underneath backup goaltender Zach Sandy for a shorthanded tally and the eventual game-winner.
The scoring binge took a brief break at 10:09 of the period after the Bulls made it 5-2, when Justin Mexico (Madison Heights, Mich./Maine Nordiques AAA) found Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) across the slot, and his poke toward the net took a detour off of Zachary Cline (Chesterfield, Mich./Northeast Generals), giving him his first goal as a Bull in his North Iowa debut.
Needing to make up three goals, Minotauros coach Cody Campbell called Sandy to the bench with four minutes remaining, and Minot’s renewed push paid dividends at 16:13 of the third period, when Huston Karpman’s shot from the left point snuck its way through the traffic to find the back of the net and cut the Bulls’ lead to two. A toss from Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./Philly Little Flyers 18U) at the blue line from the right wing with 2:32 remaining closed the scoring and sealed the victory for the Bulls.
Hartley was the only player in the game with more than one point, notching a goal and an assist and picking up a goal in his third straight game. Carroll’s shorthanded assist extended his point streak to eight games, matching the Bulls’ best mark of 2020-21.
Garvey earned his third win in a row with a career-best 45 saves, while Sandy took the loss for the Minotauros, making nine saves just one night after going a perfect 18-for-18 in relief. Clafton picked up the no-decision with 13 saves, exiting after Bulger’s go-ahead goal. Garvey’s night was the best showing by a North Iowa goaltender since Dysen Skinner’s 46-save playoff performance in 2019 against the Rochester Grizzlies, and the Bulls’ best mark in a regular-season game since a 47-save overtime loss for Evan Babekuhl earlier that year.
“I’m feeling good. The team’s playing well in front of me, so I’m trying to take it one shot at a time and see how it goes,” said Garvey. “Thankfully, it’s working in my favor right now. You have to be confident in yourself and not get down on anything, not think about a goal you gave up. I’m not sure what I didn’t see (from Minot tonight), but I’m happy we got out with a win. I’m extremely tired and ready for a 10-hour bus ride (home).”
The penalty-killing units enjoyed another outstanding showing, with the Bulls wiping away all four Minot power plays and the Minotauros shaking off both North Iowa power plays in the game. In the end, the Minotauros would earn a 48-28 shots-on-goal advantage in the game, giving up a 19-11 margin to their visitors in the final period.
The Bulls return home to face Minot next week, with games at the Mason City Arena slated for Friday and Saturday evening for North Iowa’s “Fall Into Hockey” weekend. Next weekend’s matchups mark the first time that North Iowa has played the same opponent in four straight games since facing Granite City in back-to-back weekends at the end of the 2020-21 regular season. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. both nights, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and Mixlr.
Tickets for both of next weekend’s home games, and all upcoming North Iowa home contests, are currently on sale – to purchase advance tickets to any North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 1 0 5 – 6
Minot 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Potter 1 (Mesic), 15:36. Penalties-Nesburg Mnt (hooking-minor), 2:51; Dombrowsky Nio (checking from behind-minor), 5:47.
2nd Period-2, Minot, Joseph 4 (Fridén, Beahm), 11:21. 3, Minot, Nesburg 3 (Karpman, Panzer), 12:59. Penalties-Hartley Nio (tripping-minor), 2:52; Hartley Nio (roughing-minor), 13:38; Nesburg Mnt (roughing-minor), 13:38; Carroll Nio (tripping-minor), 15:14.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Scott 2 (Mesic, Hartley), 2:02. 5, North Iowa, Bulger 4 (Dadie), 3:55. 6, North Iowa, Rapalje 4 (Carroll), 5:39 (SH). 7, North Iowa, Cline 2 (Dombrowsky, Mexico), 10:09. 8, Minot, Karpman 6 (Arneson, Joseph), 16:13. 9, North Iowa, Hartley 3 (Carroll, Potter), 17:28 (EN). Penalties-Mesic Nio (slashing-minor), 5:31; Stachowiak Mnt (slashing-minor), 18:45.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 6-3-19-28. Minot 16-21-11-48.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 2; Minot 0 / 4.
Goalies-North Iowa, Garvey 3-0-0-1 (48 shots-45 saves). Minot, Clafton 2-3-1-0 (16 shots-13 saves); Sandy 0-3-0-0 (11 shots-9 saves).
Linesmen-Dustin Nelson, Kyle Stephens.