ABERDEEN, S.D. – The North Iowa Bulls are as confident as anyone in knowing that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
North Iowa was forced to battle back against the Aberdeen Wings on Saturday night – a few times, in fact – with three game-tying goals in a 5-4 shootout loss. The Bulls enjoyed a lead only once – for five minutes of the second period, following a goal from Hunter Bulger (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) but kept the Wings well within reach before coming up one shot short in the skills contest.
After opening the scoring on Friday night, the Bulls started from behind in Saturday’s contest, when Jacob Bosse’s goal from the top of the slot was blocked out front and Jackson Yee poked home the second chance, giving the Wings the lead at 9:17 of the first period.
The Bulls answered with 6:14 remaining in the period, when Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) wrapped the puck around the net and went over the top of Dominik Wasik for the first tying goal of the night.
The tie lasted a little more than a minute-and-a-half – Yee skated the puck in front of the net from the left wing, deciding at the last instant to drop it back to Bosse in the right-wing faceoff circle, who snapped it past Carsen Stokes’s (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) mitt for the 2-1 lead with 4:40 remaining in the period.
North Iowa would, of course, answer back – Max Scott’s (San Jose, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) rush down the left wing helped to open up a 2-on-1 chance just 25 seconds later, and Ryan Coughlin (Charlotte, N.C./Amarillo Bulls) would push the puck into the net as he tumbled into the cage himself, pushing the game to a 2-2 tie heading to the second period.
Bulger’s goal at 3:14 of the second gave North Iowa its one and only lead of the night, racing into the Aberdeen zone and snapping home a shot from just inside the right-wing faceoff dot to give the Bulls a 3-2 advantage.
Back-to-back goals gave the Wings breathing room heading to the third – with Stokes and the Bulls scrambling to contain a rebound in front of the net, Kevin MacKay helped squirt the puck underneath the bodies and into the net with 11:42 remaining to tie the game at 3-3. MacKay struck again with 5:52 left in the period, with a wrist shot from the bottom of the left-wing faceoff circle that beat Stokes on his glove side and gave the Wings a 4-3 advantage.
That spelled the end of the night for Stokes, and it spelled the end of the scoring for the Wings until the shootout. North Iowa, on the other hand, wasn’t quite done yet – with Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) tied up with an Aberdeen defender trying to tap home a point-blank goal, the puck was left loose at the top of the goal crease, and Rapalje swept in to tally the tying goal with 2:38 remaining in the contest.
The Bulls surged in the final 25 minutes, earning a 14-5 shots-on-goal advantage in the third period and a 7-3 margin in the overtime period. However, just one shot found the back of the net after regulation wrapped up – that one was a forehand from Cade Nielson in the bottom of the second round of the shootout, while North Iowa did not score in their three chances.
Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Twin City Thunder) enjoyed a pair of assists for North Iowa in the loss, while Yee’s goal and two assists highlighted the offense for Aberdeen in the win. Of Yee’s six goals on the year, five have come in his four games against North Iowa. MacKay scored a pair of goals, while Bosse posted a pair of assists.
Stokes went 25-for-29, taking the no-decision for the Bulls, while Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) was saddled with the shootout loss despite a 12-for-12 showing in net. Wasik earned his second win in as many nights for the Wings, going 40-for-44.
“We just want to keep consistency right now. That’s our biggest thing,” said Rapalje. “We’re a young team, so being consistent every night is something that we want to do. We got a point tonight, and that’s always a good thing, especially in the NAHL. We kept working, we kept battling and we kept doing. We’re going to play games like this and we’ll keep battling.”
The Bulls fell to 8-4-0-2 with the loss, but climbed back into a points tie with the Austin Bruins atop the Central Division standings, after the Bruins’ regulation loss at Minot on Saturday. Aberdeen finds itself very much in the Central Division conversation as well, moving to 7-5 with the win.
North Iowa enjoys a weekend off next week, their first full weekend away from competition this year, and last full weekend off until Christmas. The Bulls return to home ice Friday and Saturday, November 5 and 6, when the Bismarck Bobcats play their first game ever against North Iowa and make their first trip to Mason City since facing the North Iowa Outlaws in March of 2010. The opening puck drop both nights is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Mason City Arena, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and Mixlr.
Tickets for those games, and all North Iowa home games, are on sale now – to purchase advance tickets to any upcoming 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 2 1 1 0 – 4
Aberdeen 2 2 0 0 – 5
1st Period-1, Aberdeen, Yee 6 (Bosse, Gustafsson), 9:17. 2, North Iowa, Rapalje 5 (Potter), 13:46. 3, Aberdeen, Allais 2 (Yee, Brimanis), 15:20. 4, North Iowa, Coughlin 4 (Scott, Potter), 15:45. Penalties-Roepke Nio (roughing-minor), 10:55; Mann Abd (roughing-double minor), 10:55; Japchen Nio (kneeing-minor), 20:00.
2nd Period-5, North Iowa, Bulger 5 (Dadie, Vlasich), 3:14. 6, Aberdeen, MacKay 2 (Yee, Bosse), 8:18. 7, Aberdeen, MacKay 3 (Messuri), 14:08. Penalties-Liotino Nio (tripping-minor), 10:13; Potter Nio (roughing-minor), 14:53; Yee Abd (roughing-minor, holding-minor), 14:53.
3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Rapalje 6 (Dombrowsky, Mesic), 17:22. Penalties-Yee Abd (head contact-minor), 11:10.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – North Iowa 0 (Roepke NG, Dombrowsky NG, Coughlin NG), Aberdeen 1 (Walsh NG, Neilson G).
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 10-13-14-7-0-44. Aberdeen 17-16-5-3-1-42.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 3; Aberdeen 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Stokes 2-0-0-0 (29 shots-25 saves); Garvey 4-2-0-2 (12 shots-12 saves). Aberdeen, Wasik 3-1-0-0 (44 shots-40 saves).
Linesmen-Grant Crowell, Landon Depew.