MASON CITY, Iowa – With almost 10 goals a game and less than a goal-and-a-half allowed per night, the Sheridan Hawks are a big-gunning band of birds. The Hawks looked the part in the opening period, but the Bulls stampeded after the opening intermission with seven straight goals en route to a 7-3 win over the frontrunners from the North American Tier 3 Hockey League’s Frontier Division in the inaugural game of the Bulls Holiday Classic.
The Hawks got the upper hand early, with Zach Brydges banging in a goal just 3:31 into the contest on an initial chance from Justin Schwartzmiller. Each team got their power play chances in this one, and Jonathon and Joe Teasdale hooked up on the man-advantage just four minutes later, with Joe setting older brother Jonathon up with a backdoor one-timer for a 2-0 advantage.
North Iowa missed on its only power-play chance of the opening stanza, but the teams were deadlocked 8-8 on the shot chart heading out of the first period. The Bulls quickly shook off the slow start and made their move after a tripping minor to Lucas Helland just 2:26 into the period.
Just 15 seconds into the power play, goaltender James Downie attempted to clear the puck out from the Sheridan zone, but did not elevate it over Caden Smith (Lakeville, Minn./Janesville Jets) along the boards. Smith climbed the ladder to haul in the puck, and fired it forward into the open Hawks net to trim the lead to one.
At 8:48, the Hawks saw that lead evaporate for good – Kyle Heffron (Rosemount, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) grabbed the puck and turned from just above the goal line to Downie’s left to sneak the puck past the Australia native for the tying goal.
Dakota Kott saw his night end early at the game’s midway point, drawing a five-minute spearing major in front of the Sheridan net that gave the Bulls their most appetizing chance of the night. At 12:07, Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) feasted on the extra-long power-play chance, firing one through the traffic at the bottom of the zone to beat Downie over his left shoulder and giving the hosts the lead for good.
North Iowa wasn’t content to sit on its laurels in the period’s final minutes, though – with just under five minutes remaining on the second-period timer, Max Savaloja (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial H.S.) found himself unable to drag the puck around a defender inside the left-wing faceoff circle, leaving the blocked puck for Smith to finish off for the 4-2 lead.
Caleb Huffman (Anchorage, Alaska/Meijer AAA) finished the five-goal barrage just 75 seconds later, throwing one through from the left point to give the Bulls a 5-2 lead heading to the third period.
The Bulls needed several chances to score their sixth goal at the 1:09 mark of the third, with Garrett Freeman (Sartell, Minn./Breezy Point North Stars) and Savaloja trying mightily to set each other up for a chance in front of the Sheridan net, or jam home a short-distance rebound. With no opportunity presenting itself to the two, linemate Brayden Uttech (Sun Prairie, Wis./Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings) answered the call by pushing in the puck for a goal of his own and a 6-2 advantage.
Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) saw his night end early as well, drawing a likely hooking call with just under seven minutes left in the final period. That penalty was never enforced, however, with Jones adding some extra spice to a check in front of the North Iowa bench and picking up a five-minute boarding call that started a mini-melee and led to two additional roughing penalties on each team.
The first goal in that five-minute stretch, though, went to Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) on a breakaway that ended with a triple-deke and a sneak under the bar and off the top of the Hawks’ cage. After taking the lead to 7-2 with just 3:48 remaining in the period, the margin slipped back to 7-3 on a back-post tally from Joe Teasdale to give Sheridan their final marker of the night.
In the end, the power-play groupings stole the show, with Sheridan finishing at 2-for-2 and the Bulls at 2-for-4. Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) made 27 saves for the unofficial win in his first 60-minute outing since an injury sustained in a game against the Willmar WarHawks on October 31.
“It feels great to be back on the ice with my boys,” said Daninger. “I missed them when I was home for a couple of weeks, so it feels great to be back at the rink every day, sharing the atmosphere and playing hard every night.”
Smith finished with the only multi-goal game of the night for North Iowa, while Jones and Savaloja finished with two assists apiece. Joe Teasdale wrapped up the night with a goal and an assist in the losing effort for Sheridan.
The game was the first of six on the weekend for the Bulls and Hawks, who continue the Bulls’ Holiday Classic on Friday. Sheridan faces the Jr. Blues at noon, while St. Louis faces off against North Iowa at 7:30 p.m. All games will stream live on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming of all Bulls games on Mixlr. Friday’s game is also the Bulls’ “Naughty and Nice” Night, featuring an ugly sweater contest and appearances from some of your favorite holiday characters.
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 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.