MASON CITY, Iowa – The Willmar WarHawks made the first 40 minutes interesting Friday night, but with 13 skaters, Willmar had to defeat a deeper North Iowa team to get its second win of the year.
The Bulls used that depth to their advantage in the final period, putting 30 shots on net and scoring nine unanswered goals for an 11-2 win. North Iowa won its sixth straight, and ran its regular-season home winning streak to 13 games. With a late power play goal, the Bulls also ran their string of special-teams success to eight straight games.
It was Willmar who struck first, though, on a top-shelf goal from Jacob May, on a rush up the right wing with 1:44 remaining in the first period. The Bulls got 16 shots on net before the intermission, but did not get one past Lucas Ehrlich in the opening stanza.
“Their game style was packing it in a bit,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “They’re doing what they have to do, and they were severely undermanned in numbers tonight. Lucas was the best player in the building tonight. That kid battled for his team and himself, and as an opposing coach, I say that kid’s got to be proud of what he did for his team tonight. I have a lot of respect for him and the job that he did tonight.”
At 5:05 of the second period, North Iowa finally broke through, on a rebound goal from Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to tie the game at 1-1. Marco Escobar (Plainfield, Ill./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede) gave North Iowa the lead just 100 seconds later, tapping one in on the doorstep following a quick feed from Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s H.S.).
The Bulls almost got out of the second period with that lead. After earning an assist on May’s goal in the first, Elijah Slagter went above the shoulders of Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) with 2:26 remaining, sending the game to the third with a 2-2 tie.
The third-period party started early, on Blackowiak’s second goal just 44 seconds out of the break. He would score again to finish off the hat trick at the 3:13 mark of the period, and only Joey Petronack‘s (White Bear Lake, Minn./Hill Murray H.S.) goal under the crossbar at 8:07 of the third period kept Blackowiak from earning a natural hat trick.
His fourth goal, however, came on the penalty kill at 9:21 of the third period. Right after dishing out an assist on Petronack’s goal, Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./Milwaukee Jr. Admirals) was hit with a tripping call, sending North Iowa down a man for the fourth time in the game. Blackowiak finished his scoring for the night with a flourish, undressing Ehrlich before poking one in the top of the net for a 6-2 North Iowa lead.
“He’s a guy who has the ability to find the back of the net,” said Sanden. “Hopefully this turns out to be more than a streak, where he’s going to be a consistent goal-getter for us.”
As the third period hit the halfway mark, Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) found himself needing a point to extend his streak to eight games. That came on an assist on Jimmy McDermott‘s (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) goal on the edge of the crease with 9:15 left, and the lead hit 7-2.
Brendan Hill’s cross-checking minor was the last penalty of the night, and it gave the Bulls a badly-needed chance to extend their power-play scoring streak. With just four seconds remaining on the power play, Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) shoved one in to save the scoring streak, pushing the lead to 8-2 with 5:49 to go.
The scoring seemed to be over, but Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) hit Studioso with a quick toss across the crease for a one-timer tally with 2:01 remaining. The final two goals came as Dahlseide slipped one in underneath Ehrlich with 56 seconds left, and Wesley Johnson‘s (Coleraine, Minn./Greenway H.S.) first junior goal with just five seconds remaining capped the scoring.
Blackowiak had the biggest night of them all, scoring four goals. It was the first four-goal game for the Bulls since Josh Arnold went back-to-back with four-goal nights last December against the former Rochester Ice Hawks. Escobar finished with a goal and three assists, and Stewart left the ice with four helpers of his own. In all, 14 Bulls skaters earned points in Friday’s game.
“If it’s a 40-minute game, we’re in trouble tonight,” said Sanden. “Willmar hung around, stayed in the game, and got a couple of chances that they cashed in on. If they got another bounce we were in for a barnburner here.”
Several big streaks continued for North Iowa, as Studioso’s active point streak hit eight games, and McDermott and Verstegen both upped their point-scoring streaks to six games. Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) is up to five straight games with a point, and Dahlseide has racked up 11 points in just his last four appearances.
Babekuhl moved to 3-3-0-0 on the season, facing just nine shots and stopped seven. Ehrlich found himself making saves from all angles, stopping 55 of North Iowa’s 66 shots, but the WarHawks could not find the back of the net on four power play chances.
North Iowa and Willmar get back to action against each other Saturday night to finish off the Bulls’ seven-game homestand, as well as College Weekend at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Willmar 1 1 0 – 2
North Iowa 0 2 9 – 11
1st Period-1, Willmar, May 2 (Slagter, Sylvester), 18:16. Penalties-Blackowiak Nio (high sticking-minor), 13:53.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Blackowiak 4 (McDermott, Stewart), 5:05. 3, North Iowa, Escobar 7 (Roo, Verstegen), 6:45. 4, Willmar, Slagter 5 (Martin, Rollo), 17:34. Penalties-Stewart Nio (hooking-minor), 1:13.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Blackowiak 5 (Petronack, Stewart), 0:44. 6, North Iowa, Blackowiak 6 (Escobar, Simon), 3:13. 7, North Iowa, Petronack 3 (Escobar, Stewart), 8:07. 8, North Iowa, Blackowiak 7 9:21 (SH). 9, North Iowa, McDermott 6 (Studioso, Petronack), 10:45. 10, North Iowa, Dahlseide 9 (Stewart, Verstegen), 14:11 (PP). 11, North Iowa, Studioso 9 (Verstegen, Fagerlee), 17:59. 12, North Iowa, Dahlseide 10 (Escobar, Roo), 19:04. 13, North Iowa, Johnson 1 (Giddings, Hale), 19:55. Penalties-Petronack Nio (holding-minor), 3:20; Hill Wil (tripping-minor), 5:40; Stewart Nio (tripping-minor), 8:18; Hill Wil (cross checking-minor), 12:14.
Shots on Goal-Willmar 3-4-2-9. North Iowa 16-20-30-66.
Power Play Opportunities-Willmar 0 / 4; North Iowa 1 / 2.
Goalies-Willmar, Ehrlich 1-8-1-0 (66 shots-55 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 3-3-0-0 (9 shots-7 saves).
Linesmen-Aaron Mostrom, Cody Clark.