Post Game Report 3-4
MASON CITY, Iowa – Saturday night’s rematch between the North Iowa Bulls and St. Louis Jr. Blues was tied for all of 47 seconds. After giving up three first-period goals, though, the Bulls almost evened things back up with another outstanding showing on the power play.
Daniil Ovchinnikov scored two goals in a 4-2 Jr. Blues victory, forging a split in the season series between the two division champions. Sam Maddox was the one to put the visitors on the board early, thanks to Nick Balestra’s pass from the end boards that set Maddox up for an opportunity right in front of the North Iowa net less than a minute in.
At 4:34 of the first period, Ovchinnikov got the front end of his pair, thanks to a pair of well-placed passes from Jack Hatton on the left-wing boards and Ivan Galaguzov near the goal line. The first-intermission lead stood at 3-0, though – with 4:39 remaining in the period, Galaguzov found himself in the corner with an open pass to Brandon Bornkamp on Drew Scites’s (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) right post. Galaguzov made the pass, and Bornkamp made the shot to push the lead to three going to the 20-minute break.
The Bulls were outshot 13-6 in the opening stanza, but they made sure Jr. Blues netminder Sawyer Schmidt had some work to do in the second period – Schmidt faced 18 shots in the period and kept North Iowa off the board until the 14-minute mark. After a too-many-men penalty to the Jr. Blues, Dayton Honkanen’s (New Brighton, Minn./Soo Eagles) rip from the top of the slot was turned away, right into a mass of bodies in front of the net. With the net coming off, Nick Klishko (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) was able to slip the puck past the former Rochester Ice Hawk and get the Bulls on the board.
A four-minute high-sticking penalty against the Jr. Blues’ Daniel Dunaway with 3:31 to go to the intermission cost them a goal, and almost cost St. Louis more dearly than that. A right-wing pass from Owen Larson (Minneapolis, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), who was also the victim of Dunaway’s stick foul, went right to Braxton Collins (Eau Claire, Wis./Coulee Region Chill) in the slot. Collins turned the puck to the back of his stick and flipped it home, and that goal with just 2:26 on the clock also flipped the script and the momentum heading to the final period.
Enter Ovchinnikov again in the third, who threaded the needle from above the faceoff circle and beat Scites just inside the post at 4:18 of the third period. That marker got the insurance goal back on the board for the Jr. Blues, and gave them a lead that would prove to be unrecoverable for their hosts.
“When you come into the back end after you win on Friday night, you’d like to get that sweep coming into Saturday,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “You’re looking at two division leaders, two very highly-skilled teams. We had the edge of the play last night, but we didn’t have the edge in the shots. Tonight they were quicker than us all around the rink. I thought Scites made some key saves at some key times and kept us in the game. The speed that they had, we just couldn’t counter tonight.”
Scites ended a personal four-game winning streak, dropping back to 5-4-0 for the season, and the loss ended a three-game goal-scoring streak for Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) in which the NAHL veteran tallied five goals.
The loss sets up a busy week for North Iowa – the Bulls will host the Iowa State University ACHA Division III team in exhibition play on Monday afternoon, as the Cyclones prepare for the ACHA national tournament. After that, it’s back to work with a three-game weekend against the Peoria Mustangs on Friday and Saturday night, and Central Division runner-up La Crosse on Sunday evening. After that, the Silver Cup playoffs await.
“That’s why we get these three-game sets at the end of the season,” said Sanden. “It replicates a playoff series, and at the Silver Cup, you have to play five games in five days to win it. The preparation that we put into the late-season schedule, bringing good teams in, the sense of urgency to start games on time and play a full 60 minutes, we’ve got to be better next weekend to build momentum going into the playoffs.”
Friday and Saturday’s games against the Mustangs are both set for a 7:30 p.m. start and will feature special Star Wars-themed jerseys as part of “Sci-Fi Weekend” at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Those jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit the North Iowa Youth Center following Saturday’s game. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed on Mixlr.