SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – North Iowa has been a handful for other hockey teams in the NA3HL this season. To start the 2019-20 campaign, they’d won a handful as well. One night after a resounding 5-2 win, though, the Granite City Lumberjacks proved to be a little too much to handle in a 5-3 loss, ending the Bulls’ winning streak at five games.
Nic Cicchi set quite the tone for the night, making the start in his junior debut and scoring on his very first shift, just 47 seconds into the game. Daymin Dodge doubled the Granite City edge at 7:10 of the period, giving the Lumberjacks a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes.
The comeback was on from that point on, and Nico Aguilera (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South H.S.) took it upon himself to lead the way. Aguilera popped one over the shoulder of Nate Johnston at the 3:13 mark of the period to trim the lead to 2-1. Four minutes later, the lead evaporated when Aguilera led a 3-on-2 rush up the ice and beat Johnston with a stick-side wrist shot from the right wing.
The momentum pivoted around the second intermission, though. Blake Spetz dug in a rebound on his own point-blank shot with just under 90 seconds left in the period, and a shorthanded rebound tally from Bailey Sommers 42 seconds into the third period made it a 4-2 game.
North Iowa wasn’t about to fade quietly into the night, though – Erick Bromberg’s holding minor seven minutes into the third period proved costly, with Ryan Hempel (Katy, Texas/Elliot Lake Wildcats) trimming the lead to one at 8:25 of the third period. Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) led the race into the Granite City zone, but left the puck behind on the doorstep when he reached the goal. Hempel was right behind Fagerlee, and was ready to stuff it in when the opportunity presented itself.
Just as the Bulls put an exclamation mark on Friday’s game with a late tally from Jack Kubitz (Orono, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), Jonah Jangula matched the Lumberjacks’ arch-rival, locking down the win with his own goal with 2:01 to go. A neutral-zone turnover allowed Jangula to take the puck and race the other way with only goaltender Eli Bowers (Whitefish Bay, Wis./Madison Capitols 18U) and defenseman Callahan Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./Phoenix Jr. Coyotes) in the way.
Each team finished 1-for-5 on the power play, ending the Bulls’ run at 17 straight successful penalty kills. Bowers dropped to 1-1 with the loss, making 21 saves on 26 Granite City shots. Johnston made 33 saves for the ‘Jacks on 36 North Iowa chances.
“We needed to be a little better in the [defensive] zone,” said Aguilera. “I feel like we were buzzing in the offensive zone, and we had our chances. We just couldn’t bury (them).”
At long last, the Bulls play their final home opener in the North Iowa Ice Arena on Friday evening, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop against the Willmar WarHawks. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
The last home-opening bash at the “Barn” will feature a pregame tailgate party, a postgame skate, free koozies with all paid adult admissions, free kids’ admission and more. The latest news and information on Bulls hockey is always available by calling 641-423-4625, visiting www.northiowabulls.com, or following the Bulls on social media. To purchase advance tickets to any Bulls home game this season, click here.
North Iowa 0 2 1 – 3
Granite City 2 1 2 – 5
1st Period-1, Granite City, Cicchi 1 (Larson, Green), 0:54. 2, Granite City, Dodge 1 (Brings, Bromberg), 7:10. Penalties-Brings Gcy (checking from behind-minor), 15:49.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Aguilera 2 (Enright, Simon), 3:13. 4, North Iowa, Aguilera 3 (Kubitz, Roitman), 7:14. 5, Granite City, Spetz 3 (Pogue, Sommers), 18:33 (PP). Penalties-Simon Gcy (cross checking-minor), 7:14; Hempel Nio (cross checking-minor), 8:51; Roitman Nio (tripping-minor), 12:25; Isogai Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor, tripping-minor), 18:13; Dodge Gcy (cross checking-minor), 18:13; Cicchi Gcy (tripping-minor), 19:32.
3rd Period-6, Granite City, Sommers 4 0:42 (SH). 7, North Iowa, Hempel 3 (Fagerlee, Sullivan), 8:25 (PP). 8, Granite City, Jangula 2 (Brings, Johnson), 17:59. Penalties-Spetz Gcy (tripping-minor), 3:29; Nauss Nio (interference-minor), 5:20; Simon Gcy (hooking-minor), 5:50; Bromberg Gcy (holding-minor), 7:01; Cichosz Nio (interference-minor), 8:35.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 11-10-15-36. Granite City 6-11-9-26.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 1 / 5; Granite City 1 / 5.
Goalies-North Iowa, Bowers 1-1-0-0 (26 shots-21 saves). Granite City, Johnston 2-0-0-0 (36 shots-33 saves).
Linesmen-Alec Almquist, Zach Carson.