MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa has gotten on a nice run against their arch-rivals, winning three straight against the Granite City Lumberjacks heading into a pivotal weekend set at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena.
In typical Bulls-Lumberjacks fashion, it took everything they had – and maybe a little more – to turn that into a four-game head-to-head winning streak on Friday night.
Granite City erased a two-goal deficit and forced an extra session with a 6-on-4 power play tally with just 34 seconds remaining, but North Iowa grabbed a 4-3 win in a shootout, earning their first shootout victory since February of 2019 and taking a shootout from the ‘Jacks for the first time since November of 2016.
The Bulls dominated the pace in the first period, but both sides came up empty until the 19:00 mark of the opening stanza. Failing to dangle the puck through the legs of a defender, Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) instead slipped it left to Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/North Iowa Bulls), who drilled the top corner over Bailey Huber’s left shoulder to give North Iowa a 1-0 lead heading to the locker room.
The shots-on-goal count favored the home team 13-4 after the first, and they only built on it in the second, racking up a 28-11 mark with 20 minutes to go in regulation. With 4:54 remaining in the second, a pass from Caden Smith (Lakeville, Minn./Janesville Jets) at the left wing found Kyle Heffron (Rosemount, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) in front of the net, and he snuck the puck to the left post, where Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Armstrong-Cooper H.S.) finished for a 2-0 North Iowa lead.
The game’s only insurance goal lasted all of 32 seconds – Brendan Sloth (Anoka, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness) won a battle for the puck on the end boards behind the North Iowa net, but Sloth found himself turned around, stuffing the puck past teammate Max Gutjahr (Appleton, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) to put Granite City back within a goal.
The Bulls spent much of the third period pushing to get that insurance goal back, but with 8:28 remaining, a shot from Hanson O’Leary at the left edge of the slot beat Gutjahr high to eliminate the lead.
North Iowa wasn’t about to play from behind, and took the lead back with 2:37 remaining, just 13 seconds into a power play thanks to a boarding penalty on the Lumberjacks’ Brett Reed. Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) roped a wrist shot from the blue line that beat Huber to give the Bulls a power play goal and a 3-2 lead.
Late penalties caught up with the Bulls again in this one, though – a tripping call against Hutson Collins (Eau Claire, Wis./New Ulm Steel) with 1:58 remaining put Granite City on their third power play, and with the net open at the other end, Simon pushed it to the back door for O’Leary, and his tally tied the game at 19:26.
The teams traded shots to no avail through the five-minute overtime session, sending the teams to a three-round shootout. Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) had a quick answer to Braeden Bartoo’s first-round goal, and Gutjahr followed up a stick-side goal from Lucas Jorgenson (Orono, Minn./Holy Family H.S.) with a glove save to close out the contest.
“It was getting a little scary there at the end, and it was getting a little chippy,” said Jorgenson. “We should have just put them away in the third period, but they hung around. Ultimately, we got the win.”
Gutjahr made 23 saves to earn his fourth win of the season, while Huber fell to 9-3-0-1 behind a 35-save performance. The game officially ended Jorgenson’s eight-game point streak, tying him with Isogai for the team’s longest such streak of the season. Jones wrapped up the night with two assists for North Iowa.
The Bulls climbed to 22-6-1 on the year, while Granite City dropped to 15-8-0-1 with the loss. The win, combined with a loss for the third-place Willmar WarHawks, drops North Iowa’s magic number for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Fraser Cup playoffs to just eight points.
North Iowa and Granite City get together once again on Saturday night at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, as the Bulls celebrate Fan Appreciation Night, with the opening puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls’ 10th Anniversary season are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Granite City 0 1 2 0 – 3
North Iowa 1 1 1 0 – 4
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Isogai 16 (Jones, Sofo), 19:00. Penalties-Blake Gcy (tripping-minor), 7:53; O’Leary Gcy (slashing-minor), 14:02.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Campion 11 (Heffron, Smith), 15:06. 3, Granite City, Anderson 7 15:38. Penalties-Prifrel Gcy (roughing-minor), 9:17; Heffron Nio (roughing-minor), 9:17; Nauss Nio (hooking-minor), 10:28.
3rd Period-4, Granite City, O’Leary 6 (Davidson), 11:32. 5, North Iowa, Nauss 6 (Jones), 17:23 (PP). 6, Granite City, O’Leary 7 (Simon, Bartoo), 19:26 (PP). Penalties-Triemert Nio (holding-minor), 7:24; Reed Gcy (boarding-minor), 17:10; Collins Nio (tripping-minor), 18:02.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Granite City 1 (Bartoo G, O’Leary NG, Simon NG), North Iowa 2 (Newpower G, Jorgenson G).
Shots on Goal-Granite City 4-7-10-5-0-26. North Iowa 13-15-6-4-1-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Granite City 1 / 3; North Iowa 1 / 3.
Goalies-Granite City, Huber 9-3-0-1 (38 shots-35 saves). North Iowa, Gutjahr 4-0-1-0 (26 shots-23 saves).
Linesmen-Ben Gawlik, Dylan Krikke.