MASON CITY, Iowa – With almost a week to think back on their most recent game – a 5-3 loss to the New Ulm Steel last Friday night – Todd Sanden’s team was starving for a win in the Bulls’ Thirsty Thursday game at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena.
After going down 2-1 late in the first period to the Alexandria Blizzard, the Bulls feasted to the tune of six unanswered goals on the way to a 7-2 win, clinching a Fraser Cup West Division playoff spot in the process.
The teams traded goals in short order early, starting with a goal from Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at the top corner of the slot, off of a right-wing feed from Jac Triemert (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury H.S.) at 5:49 of the first period. Just 15 seconds later, though, a turnaround toss from Austin McNeil above the left-wing faceoff circle equaled the score at 1-1.
A 2-on-1 chance put the Blizzard briefly in front with 6:22 to go in the first period, with Mathias Branton feeding Brandon Connett across the slot for a one-timer to put Alexandria on top by a 2-1 count.
After that, though, it was all North Iowa, and it started with two more goals in quick succession – with Nick Bowlin (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) along the left flank, Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) led a 2-on-1 of his own up the right wing, and kept it for a wrist shot to beat Ville Hyttinen with 2:51 left in the first to tie the game at 2-2.
From the goal line to Hyttinen’s right, Justin Daly (Delano, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) set Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./Jamestown Rebels) a pass right at the top of the goal crease just 34 seconds later, and Eha banged in the one-timer to push the Bulls ahead 3-2.
North Iowa tacked on two more in the second period, and didn’t wait long for the first one. Dalton Saltness’s (Forest Lake, Minn./Forest Lake H.S.) shot from the middle of the slot trickled through Hyttinen and settled just in front of the net, where Sota Isogai (Okanagan U20) cleaned up the second chance for the 4-2 lead.
Just 3:09 into the second period, that goal ended the Finnish native’s night, but the Bulls would beat Bailey Rosch just past the halfway mark of the period. Eha would run the puck up the right-wing wall before facing and firing from the middle of the slot at 10:26 of the period for his second goal of the night.
North Iowa wasn’t done heading to the third period, either – less than two minutes out of the break and with Joey Petronack (White Bear Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) in the penalty box on a tripping call, Carter Wagner (Odessa Jackalopes) picked an Alexandria pocket in the neutral zone and ran it into the Blizzard zone, beating Rosch on his glove side for a 6-2 lead.
The entire forward line got involved on the final goal of the night, with 8:46 to go – Eha pushed the puck out from behind the goal line, finding Daly at the bottom of the left-wing faceoff circle, and a pass across the mouth of the goal found Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) for a quick one-timer to push the final margin to five goals.
Eha finished with two goals and an assist, while Dahlseide closed out the night with a goal and a helper of his own. Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) took over the team lead in wins with his 11th victory of the season, stopping 19 of Alexandria’s 21 chances. Hyttinen took the loss, making 16 saves on 20 North Iowa shots, while Rosch went 14-for-17 in relief.
“Having a loss under our belt for the whole week kind of put a chip on our shoulder,” said Eha. “We just wanted to get back out there and prove that we could get a W.”
North Iowa ran its record to 29-6-2-0 on the season, out-shooting Alexandria by a 37-21 margin, including 17-6 over the game’s first 20 minutes. The win pushes the Bulls’ point total in the West Division standings to 60, out of reach of the fifth-place Willmar WarHawks. The Blizzard fell to 15-14-2-1, ahead of a 7:10 p.m. rematch Friday night on the Alexandria home ice. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
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Alexandria 2 0 0 – 2
North Iowa 3 2 2 – 7
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Fagerlee 18 (Eckerline, Triemert), 5:49. 2, Alexandria, McNeil 13 (Blahosky), 6:04. 3, Alexandria, Connett 21 (Branton), 13:38. 4, North Iowa, Wahlin 21 (Roo), 17:09. 5, North Iowa, Eha 5 (Daly, Dahlseide), 17:43. Penalties-Jacobs Alx (charging-minor), 6:38.
2nd Period-6, North Iowa, Isogai 17 (Saltness, Petronack), 3:09. 7, North Iowa, Eha 6 (Nauss), 10:26. Penalties-Triemert Nio (interference-minor), 11:22.
3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Wagner 14 1:57 (SH). 9, North Iowa, Dahlseide 19 (Daly, Eha), 11:14. Penalties-Petronack Nio (tripping-minor), 1:07; Isogai Nio (high sticking-minor), 13:35.
Shots on Goal-Alexandria 6-8-7-21. North Iowa 17-11-9-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Alexandria 0 / 3; North Iowa 0 / 1.
Goalies-Alexandria, Hyttinen 8-10-2-0 (20 shots-16 saves); Rosch 6-3-0-1 (17 shots-14 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 11-2-0-0 (21 shots-19 saves).
Referees-Tyler Hascall, Nolan Bloyer.
Linesmen-Cam Dykstra, Samual Rankin.