AFFTON, Mo. – Any member of the North Iowa Bulls will tell you there’s a lot of hockey left to be played, and a lot to tidy up before the Fraser Cup national tournament in late March. The milestones the Bulls are reaching, though, will tell you that this year’s team may turn out to be a special group.
North Iowa earned a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Jr. Blues on Sunday, completing the Bulls’ first sweep in St. Louis since the 2013-14 season. That team won 57 games and took second in the nation to a Boston Jr. Bruins roster that eventually boasted 16 NCAA Division I players.
The game was a rough and choppy one, with both teams turning up the physicality a notch from Saturday’s 4-2 North Iowa win. It didn’t take quite as long for the Bulls to get on the board in this contest, with Zach Simon (Orono, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) putting away a rebound on an initial shot from Carter Wagner (Lino Lakes, Minn./Odessa Jackalopes) at the 11:35 mark of the first period.
Just like the Saturday night affair, St. Louis was able to grab a lead after giving up the opening goal. An odd-man rush just 4:16 into the second period allowed the Jr. Blues’ top line to wipe away the Bulls’ lead, with Jacob Wiethaupt setting Sean Hofstetter up for a tap-in to tie the game.
The second goal was scored by one of the newest Jr. Blues, and it was a solo effort. Evan Ross lifted Noah Roitman’s (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley H.S.) stick off the puck in the North Iowa half before taking it the other way and sniping one into the upper corner of the net to take the lead with 3:39 remaining in the second period.
The lead didn’t even last a minute – with 2:51 to go before the break, a rush up the right wing saw Wagner fire another shot on net before bouncing out front for Simon to put away.
“Both goals were from me driving the net, and Carter just getting a really good shot right off the pads,” said Simon. “It means a lot (to earn the sweep). It shows just how good we are as a squad this year.”
Both teams knew the next goal would likely decide the contest, and the next goal came just 4:32 into the third period on a wrist shot from Ryan Hempel (Katy, Texas/Elliot Lake Wildcats) in the slot. A walk up the wall allowed Jac Triemert (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury H.S.) to find Hempel open in the slot, and his quick snap beat St. Louis newcomer Will Oliver along the ice.
“It’s always nice beating my former team,” said Hempel, who played for the Jr. Blues during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. “I’ve got a couple of buddies on the team, and being able to hold that (game-winning goal) now is a good feeling.”
Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./North Iowa Bulls) pulled into the team lead with his fourth win on the season, making 28 saves. Oliver made 32 saves in the loss in his Jr. Blues debut. St. Louis missed on its only power play chance with less than five minutes to go in the game, while the Bulls came up short on both of their power plays.
North Iowa takes on the New Ulm Steel on Friday and Saturday, with the Bulls hosting the Saturday night contest. Friday’s game starts at 7:10 p.m. in New Ulm, while Saturday’s game gets underway at 7:30 p.m. in Mason City. Live streaming coverage is available for both games on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr for Saturday night’s contest.
Saturday’s game is “Hat Tricks and Treats” Night at the “Barn,” as the team celebrates its final Halloween at the North Iowa Ice Arena. The Bulls will share treats with the crowd after each home goal, and if any player nets a hat trick on his home ice, the Bulls will share hats with the crowd as well. All kids entering the Halloween costume contest will be admitted free, and all adults with a Jack o’ Lantern will receive $2 off their game-night admission.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey is always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase advance tickets to any future Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
North Iowa 1 1 1 – 3
St. Louis 0 2 0 – 2
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Simon 5 (Wagner, Aguilera), 11:35. Penalties-Stevenson Stl (roughing-minor), 11:52; Boccardi Stl (holding-minor), 18:26.
2nd Period-2, St. Louis, Hofstetter 14 (Wiethaupt, Ivory), 4:15. 3, St. Louis, Ross 1 16:21. 4, North Iowa, Simon 6 (Aguilera, Wagner), 17:09. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Hempel 5 (Triemert), 4:32. Penalties-Nauss Nio (interference-minor), 15:15; Solimando Stl (unsportsmanlike conduct – 10 minute), 19:20.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 6-15-14-35. St. Louis 4-12-14-30.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 2; St. Louis 0 / 1.
Goalies-North Iowa, Skinner 4-0-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves). St. Louis, Oliver 0-1-0-0 (35 shots-32 saves).
Linesmen-Matt Bleck, Michael Ifkovits.