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MASON CITY, Iowa – The North Iowa Bulls’ schedule since Thanksgiving has been anything but normal or predictable, but after the state of Minnesota pressed pause on junior hockey two weeks ago, the Bulls are staying focused on staying on the ice regardless of which opponent comes their way.
Friday night’s opponent was Carshield, one of the region’s top 18-and-under teams from the St. Louis area. A big, feisty and fast-paced Carshield team drew first blood before the Bulls put their foot on the gas pedal for a 9-1 win.
It took a little while for both teams to settle in, but once they did, the scoring came fast and furious. Leading Carshield scorer Tyler Culleton beat North Iowa goaltender Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) on his glove side at the 13:20 mark of the first period, giving the visitors the early lead.
That lead vanished just 1:47 later, though – with less than five minutes remaining in the period, Max Savaloja (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial H.S.) gathered a pass in the slot from Sean Sullivan (Middleton, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) and snapped it past Carshield goaltender Matt Smith, putting the teams back even at 1-1. With 2:27 remaining, the lead changed hands for good on Hayden Fox’s (Anchorage, Alaska/Team Alaska U18) goal over Smith’s shoulder.
After putting up 15 shots in the first period against Carshield’s six, North Iowa left its mark on the game in the middle stanza, starting with back-to-back goals just 12 seconds apart. Kyle Heffron (Rosemount, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) snuck in a chance just under the crossbar at 6:40 of the period, while Caden Smith (Lakeville, Minn./Janesville Jets) buried his goal from the left wing on the very next rush into the Carshield zone. Friday night was Smith’s very first appearance on the ice, joining the Bulls roster this past week.
“It’s been awesome,” said Smith. “The facilities are great, my teammates are great and I love my coaches. It’s been really fun to play here so far.”
North Iowa added on with three more goals in the second period, starting with Jack Campion’s (Crystal, Minn./Armstrong H.S.) tip-in on a Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) blast from the left point. Campion’s goal with 9:08 remaining in the second period made it a 5-1 game, and Brady Snedden’s (Eagle River, Wis./Northland Pines H.S.) goal from the top of the faceoff circle with 5:56 to go in the period made it 6-1.
That goal spelled the end for Matt Smith, and brought Jordan Behnen into the game for Carshield. The Bulls didn’t let up, however, with a toss to the net from Sullivan finding Lucas Jorgenson (Orono, Minn./Holy Family H.S.) for a nifty finish in front of the net and a 7-1 lead with 2:15 remaining in the period.
A 2-on-1 break for the Bulls led to a stick-side marker from Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) at the 7:07 mark of the third period. North Iowa capped the scoring with 8:48 remaining on Snedden’s second goal of the night, a rebound goal in front of Behnen after a transition chance from Isaac Lindstrom (Chippewa Falls, Wis./Chippewa Falls H.S.) was knocked away.
Neither team finished the night with a power-play goal, with North Iowa finishing 0-for-2 on the man-advantage and Carshield going 0-for-1. The special-teams numbers never changed after each team got its looks in the first period. Daninger earned the win, giving up just the one goal to Culleton before yielding to Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) nine minutes into the second period. Smith took the loss, allowing six goals.
“We’re really blessed to be able to play,” said Brendan Sloth (Anoka, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness). “It was great to get back into a routine and a rhythm with the guys.”
The Bulls welcome the Rochester Grizzlies for an exhibition game on Saturday evening at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, with the opening puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage of Saturday’s game is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls’ 10th Anniversary season in Mason City are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the Bulls’ social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.