Post Game Report 3-17
MASON CITY, Iowa – The Rochester Ice Hawks hadn’t beaten the North Iowa Bulls in 14 tries coming into the opening game of the NA3HL Central Division semifinals, but with a pair of one-goal games this season, they’d given North Iowa its share of close calls. The ambitions of breaking through were put to bed early with three Bulls goals in the first period and four more in the second, as North Iowa rolled to a 7-1 win Friday night to give the Bulls a 1-game-to-0 lead in the best-of-3 series.
Braxton Collins (Eau Claire, Wis./Coulee Region Chill) scored a pair of goals in the win, and put North Iowa within a game of knocking the Ice Hawks out of the postseason in the opening round for the second year in a row. Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./Soo Eagles), Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) and Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) each added a goal and a pair of assists to the total.
“We came out of the gates quick,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “It took a bit to get on the board, but I thought our first and second periods were really good and I thought their guys really brought it for the third. I didn’t think our guys were disinterested but it’s hard to stay on the gas and that’s all we preached, was to stay on the gas. Rochester brought it for the third and they’re in desperation mode right now.”
Bump walked one in from the left wing at just 5:15 of the first period to give North Iowa the initial lead, sneaking one past Bailey Schmitz, who eventually would surrender all seven North Iowa goals. Bump’s pass to Collins led the Bulls over the red line late in the first period, and Collins finished the play with a backhand tally at 15:48. Honkanen flipped one to the net with 2:08 remaining, bouncing it once before making its second bounce in the back of the net for a 3-0 lead at the intermission.
Owen Larson (Minneapolis, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) kept the party rolling at the 9:15 mark of the second period by shoving one in underneath Schmitz following a chip pass from Barnes along the right-wing wall. The special teams came up big again on the penalty kill just over a minute later, with Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./Team Illinois) heaving one ahead into the neutral zone for Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./Dallas Stars Elite) to race in and score on the breakaway.
For awhile, the game appeared pegged for a 5-0 score heading to the second intermission, but Collins would change that with a quick goal from the left-side faceoff circle at 19:05 of the second period. Barnes capped the scoring just 23 seconds later for a 7-0 lead with 20 minutes to go. That goal led to the end of Schmitz’s night – he was pulled in favor of Drew Schenkenberg in the Ice Hawks net heading to the third period.
The Ice Hawks wouldn’t completely miss out on the fun, though – after a cross-checking minor for Bump with just three minutes remaining, Rochester capitalized on its fourth power-play chance of the night with Joe Puglise tossing one in the net from the right point.
“We were good in our pursuit on pucks and positioning at neutral ice, and even on the forecheck,” said Sanden.
Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) won the opener for the Bulls, making 20 saves on 21 Rochester shots. The home team dominated the shot count for much of the night, out-shooting the Ice Hawks 15-1 through the first period and 34-4 through the first two periods. Each team notched a power-play goal, with the final shots-on-goal margin reaching 49-21 in the Bulls’ favor.
North Iowa heads to Rochester on Saturday night looking to finish off the Ice Hawks and advance to the Central Division finals against either Wisconsin or La Crosse. The opening faceoff is slated for 7:05 p.m. at the Rochester Recreation Center. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed on Mixlr.