MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa did get off to a solid start in Friday’s game against the Minot Minotauros. A strong zone entry and the game’s first shot set a good tone for the night in the opening seconds.
The Minotauros did their best to make sure the good vibes didn’t last.
Minot picked up two goals in the first period and two more in the second, including a natural hat trick from Hunter Longhi, and Lawton Zacher earned his first junior shutout to earn a 4-0 victory at the Mason City Arena, moving within four points of the early lead in the North American Hockey League Central Division standings.
After that initial shot, the Minotauros picked up six of the next eight, culminating in a give-and-go goal from Joe Westlund at the 7:07 mark of the contest, giving the visitors the early 1-0 lead.
Longhi took over from there, sprinting free for a breakaway goal at 9:31 of the period to send the Minotauros to the break with a 2-0 advantage. He added two more in the second period, both off of faceoffs in the Bulls’ end of the rink. His shot from the top of the left-wing circle 2:45 into the period made it 3-0, and with 7:04 left on the second-period clock, Longhi swatted the puck toward the net and past Mitch Day (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) to complete the hat trick and push the lead to four goals.
The teams battled to a scoreless tie in the third, with Minot out-shooting their hosts by an 11-5 margin. The penalty-killing units were perfect in the game, with North Iowa coming up empty on its four chances and Minot going 0-for-2 on the man-advantage.
Day took the loss, dropping back to 4-3 on the season with 30 saves on 34 Minot chances. Zacher moved to 6-1 on the season, stopping all 26 North Iowa shots that came his way.
Chase LaPinta and Justin Dauphinais each collected a pair of assists in the game, with LaPinta springing Longhi for his breakaway goal in the first period and Dauphinais winning the draw for his goal early in the second.
The loss ended a six-game point streak for North Iowa’s Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./North Iowa Bulls), and the Bulls suffered their first shutout loss since the 2021-22 finale, a 7-0 defeat in St. Cloud against the Norsemen. North Iowa’s five-game winning streak came to a close as well, its longest since an eight-game run during the 2020-21 season, its last in the North American 3 Hockey League.
The Bulls’ season-long seven-game homestand continues Saturday night with a rematch against the Minotauros, their last get-together until March 10. The opening puck drop at the Mason City Arena is slated for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and NorthIowaBulls.com.
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Minot 2 2 0 – 4
North Iowa 0 0 0 – 0
1st Period-1, Minot, Westlund 2 (Woogk, Lund), 7:09. 2, Minot, Longhi 3 (LaPinta, Dauphinais), 9:36. Penalties-Scalise Nio (checking from behind-minor), 4:31; Stachowiak Mnt (tripping-minor), 19:49.
2nd Period-3, Minot, Longhi 4 (Dauphinais, LaPinta), 2:45. 4, Minot, Longhi 5 12:56. Penalties-O’Hanisain Mnt (cross checking-minor), 10:07; Joseph Mnt (tripping-minor), 19:14.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Lund Mnt (cross checking-minor), 11:27; Johnson Nio (checking from behind-minor), 15:20.
Shots on Goal-Minot 15-8-11-34. North Iowa 11-10-5-26.
Power Play Opportunities-Minot 0 / 2; North Iowa 0 / 4.
Goalies-Minot, Zacher 6-1-0-0 (26 shots-26 saves). North Iowa, Day 4-3-0-0 (34 shots-30 saves).
Linesmen-Jake Caneff, Landon Depew.