La CROSSE, Wis. – The NA3HL regular season is approaching its end surprisingly quickly, and with four games left against the second-place La Crosse Freeze, it’s no secret how important this weekend’s contests are to the Central Division standings. North Iowa certainly didn’t forget what’s at stake in Friday’s meeting with La Crosse, taking the lead within the opening half-minute of a 4-1 victory and picking up their 28th win of the season in 32 tries.
Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) has racked up 10 multi-point games in his last 11 outings, and this one started with a goal on the first shift, just 27 seconds after the opening puck drop. The Bulls were able to fight off a pair of late penalties to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The lead would remain at one goal for most of the second period as well, until Isaac Baron (Burnsville, Minn./Academy of Holy Angels) finally broke through with 6:10 to go in the period. Clemons would push the second-intermission lead to 3-0 with another goal barely two minutes later.
Each team earned goals on the power play in the final period – North Iowa was able to kill a penalty against Clemons for holding just 3:14 into the period, and shortly after the return to 5-on-5, Flavien Fondadouze entered the box on a minor penalty call for checking from behind.
That’s when the Bulls struck – Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) scored just 16 seconds into the power play, extending the lead to 4-0. All six of his goals this season have come in the last two weeks.
The Bulls weren’t able to wipe out a penalty to Clemons with 5:18 remaining, though – halfway through the two-minute power play, Alec Seeger snapped the shutout with a special-teams goal of his own. By then, though, the three-goal deficit was too much to overcome, and North Iowa was able to salt away its 20th win all-time in the head-to-head series.
Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) won his 19th game of the season, making 24 stops and coming up one save shy of a shutout for the ninth time this season. He would also earn an assist for the second time, this time on Clemons’s opening goal. Will Graves faced 35 North Iowa shots, stopping 31 and dropping back-to-back decisions for only the second time this season.
The Bulls return home Saturday night for the back end of their home-and-home set against the Freeze with “Superhero Night,” featuring appearances by Superman and Captain America, and superhero masks for the first 100 kids in the door. Live streaming coverage will be available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game, or any future North Iowa Bulls home contest, click here.