ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – With six minutes to go in Friday’s game at Alexandria, North Iowa led 3-1 and appeared to be on the verge of ending the Blizzard’s 10-game winning streak and moving their own run to 14 straight.
By the time the third-period clock was down to one minute, the home team had completed its comeback, and the Blizzard were able to get back-to-back goals in a shootout for a 4-3 victory. While the Bulls’ winning streak is over, their point streak continues, going 32 straight games without a regulation loss.
The Bulls fought off three Alexandria power-play chances in the first period to take a scoreless tie out of the opening 20 minutes. Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) scored twice in the second period to push North Iowa into the lead, putting away his pair of goals at 2:17 and 6:16 of the middle stanza.
The Blizzard broke through four minutes into the third period, with a goal from Tanner Frerichs, but the Bulls had a response of their own less than 60 seconds later. Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) answered at the 4:58 mark of the third period, sending North Iowa ahead by a 3-1 count entering the final minutes.
Then, with 5:50 to go, the Blizzard made their move. Frerichs notched his second goal of the game, with Alexandria veterans Alec Skar and Jack Mellstrom helping to set things up and wipe out the Bulls’ insurance.
A boarding penalty to Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) opened up the final power-play opportunity of the night, and with 1:18 to go, Brenden Payne snuck one past Bulls goalie Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) to wipe out the lead.
Both teams got their chances in overtime, with the Bulls and the Blizzard turning up the pace for five shots each in the five-minute extra session.
The last goals of the night, though, came in the shootout – Bernhardson and Dolter misfired on their chances in the best-of-three shootout, but Logan Nelson and Tristan Poliseno found a way past the NA3HL’s defending Goaltender of the Month to cap off Alexandria’s 11th consecutive victory.
Cain made 34 saves on 37 Blizzard shots heading into the shootout, while former Bulls netminder Brady Meyers ended the night with 35 saves on 38 North Iowa chances.
While Alexandria was able to capitalize once on its five power play chances on the evening, North Iowa’s only power play was an abbreviated one. A high-sticking double-minor for Riley Scanlon allowed the Bulls what appeared to be a lengthy man-advantage, but penalties to Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./Austin Bruins) and Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./Alexandria Blizzard) in the ensuing four minutes ended up cutting that opportunity short.
The win moves Jeff Crouse’s crew into a tie with Granite City for first place in the NA3HL’s West Division, with 18 games remaining for each team. North Iowa drops to 26-0-2-2, still 11 points ahead of La Crosse for first in the Central Division.
The same two teams meet up Saturday night at the Runestone Community Center in Alexandria, with a faceoff time of 7:10 p.m. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns to home ice in Mason City next Saturday night for “Superhero Night” against the La Crosse Freeze. For advance tickets to that game, or any future North Iowa Bulls home contest, click here.