BISMARCK, N.D. – Winning consistently on Friday night is something the North Iowa Bulls are still working on. A minor adjustment here, a tweak or two there, and a good night of sleep, though? It’s worked wonders for the Bulls going into their Saturday games.
The Bulls have won six of their 16 outings on Friday nights this season, with the Bismarck Bobcats taking a roller-coaster 9-7 win from North Iowa in their most recent Friday night outing. North Iowa responded for a 4-3 win on Saturday night at the V.F.W. Sports Center, giving them their 10th win in 17 games to close out a weekend.
It took a few tries, though, before the Bulls were able to climb into the lead for good. Bismarck fought back in the first period, responding to Jake LaRusso’s (Colts Neck, N.J./New Jersey Titans) power play goal from the left-wing circle at 15:34 of the opening stanza with one of its own, a point-blank five-hole tally from Brady Egan 64 seconds later after driving the puck in front of the net for a backhand chance.
The second period? Same result. Jack Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) scored 2:29 out of the break on a wrist shot from atop the left-wing circle to give the Bulls the 2-1 lead, but Patrick Johnson notched a power play goal of his own with 8:17 left on the clock, swiping one into the net just 20 seconds into a power play on a checking-from-behind call against Greg Japchen (Doylestown, Pa./Amarillo Bulls).
In the third period, though, the lead stuck – as Oskar Spinnars Nordin swept the puck out from behind the net and Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Twin City Thunder), Dylan Gajewski (Woodhaven, Mich./Austin Bruins) caught the clearing attempt and blasted it from the right point, sneaking it through the Bismarck netminder. After an initial contact, all Spinnars Nordin could do was turn around and watch the puck wander into the back of the net for a 3-2 Bulls advantage at 6:51 of the third.
“[Joey] went in deep, so I was just covering for him on the point,” said Gajewski. “The puck bounced off the wall, and I was just throwing it toward the net. Sometimes, you get lucky, so I’ll take it.”
That lead became a permanent lead with 6:30 remaining, when Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./Philly Little Flyers 18U) zipped a puck past Spinnars Nordin on his glove side, beating him along the ice. Egan’s second goal a mere 33 seconds later, a stick-side snipe from the right-wing circle, gave the Bobcats new life, but they never got the final goal they needed to tie the game and hit the reset button on the night. Spinnars Nordin left for the bench with 1:02 remaining, and despite several shots at the Bulls’ net in the final seconds, Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) slammed the door to lock up another Saturday night success.
“I think we played a little harder and had a little more jump tonight,” said Gajewski. “We had to pick it up with our leading scorer out tonight, so we had to pick up the slack.”
Gajewski factored into all of North Iowa’s first three goals, picking up two assists to go with his go-ahead goal in the third, and Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Mason City Toros) had two assists. Egan had two goals for Bismarck, his first two goals in the North American Hockey League after debuting for the Bobcats last weekend against the Aberdeen Wings, while Jon Ziskie added two assists.
Garvey picked up his 12th win of the season for the Bulls, making 32 saves to push North Iowa to a 17-13-1-4 record for the year. Spinnars Nordin made 14 saves, taking the loss for the first time in four meetings with the Bulls, as Bismarck dropped back to 13-20-1-2. Each team enjoyed success on the power play, going 1-for-3 for the night. The Bulls’ victory also marked the first for a road team in the head-to-head series, after five straight wins for the home team.
North Iowa’s top goal scorer, Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) was out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, and his status for a busy week to come will be determined early this week. North Iowa now gears up for a rare three-game weekend against two different opponents, starting with Thursday night’s home game against the St. Cloud Norsemen before a weekend pair at Aberdeen on Friday and Saturday. Thursday’s game at the Mason City Arena gets underway at 6:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Sponsored by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance, and Mixlr.
Thursday night’s game is the Bulls’ “Business Break” Night, with all adult tickets marked down to just $5 and free admission for kids under 13 years of age. Mason City Chamber of Commerce members receive two free tickets to Thursday’s game, and domestic beers will sell for just $2. To purchase advance tickets to Thursday’s game or any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 1 1 2 – 4
Bismarck 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, North Iowa, LaRusso 6 (Gajewski, Campion), 15:33 (PP). 2, Bismarck, Egan 1 (Ziskie), 16:38. Penalties-Gajewski Nio (roughing-minor), 6:39; Michaels Bis (roughing-minor), 6:39; VanRooyan Bis (tripping-minor), 14:51.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Mesic 7 (Campion, Gajewski), 2:29. 4, Bismarck, Johnson 10 (Pietila, Chmelevski), 11:43 (PP). Penalties-Mexico Nio (hooking-minor), 3:25; Japchen Nio (checking from behind-minor), 11:23; Mesic Nio (high sticking-minor), 16:32; Potter Nio (roughing-double minor), 16:32; served by Larsen Bis (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 16:32; served by Larsen Bis (unsportsmanlike conduct-gm), 16:32; Michaels Bis (roughing-double minor), 16:32; Troumbly Bis (slashing-minor), 17:02.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Gajewski 12 (Potter), 6:51. 6, North Iowa, Hartley 11 (Dombrowsky), 13:30. 7, Bismarck, Egan 2 (Ziskie, Rudrud), 14:03. Penalties-Troumbly Bis (roughing-minor), 7:59; Mesic Nio (slashing-minor), 16:08; Michaels Bis (unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 6-6-6-18. Bismarck 10-10-15-35.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 1 / 3; Bismarck 1 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Garvey 12-9-1-4 (35 shots-32 saves). Bismarck, Spinnars Nordin 5-3-0-1 (18 shots-14 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Odin Nelson.