MASON CITY, Iowa – There was no shortage of storylines for the North Iowa Bulls on Friday night in its home contest against the La Crosse Freeze – Colin Cain‘s (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) run at the franchise’s single-season wins record and a Central Division regular-season championship were among the headlines on the script for the Bulls.
North Iowa played its part beautifully, routing the La Crosse Freeze 7-2 for its 35th win of the season, putting the Freeze seven points behind in the Central Division standings with just three games remaining, leaving Jon Vaillancourt’s team nowhere to go but a first-round matchup with the Wisconsin Whalers for the third straight year.
Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) got the action started with a shot through traffic from the right faceoff circle that beat Will Graves just 4:17 into the contest.
Four minutes later, a right-wing shot from Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) missed off the end boards, but ricocheted right to Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) below the goal line, who set up Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) for a tap-in and a 2-0 lead.
The Bulls doubled their lead with a pair of goals just 2:10 apart before the end of the period. Tyler Bump‘s (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) rip from the middle of the slot beat Graves high with 5:12 remaining in the period, and a footrace up the left wing for Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./Alexandria Blizzard) opened up space for a backside pass to Daniel Sandvig (Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville H.S.) to tap one in with 3:02 remaining for a 4-0 advantage.
North Iowa added onto it in the second period, thanks to Dahlseide’s stretch pass up the left wing to lead Sandvig into the La Crosse zone. Sandvig’s laser from the left wing beat Graves over the left shoulder at 8:39 of the second for a 5-0 lead. That lead went to 6-0 on Dahlseide’s first goal of the night just four minutes later.
Brady Lindauer broke up the shutout just more than two minutes into the third period, on a 4-on-3 power play following Aaron Swanson‘s (Sun Prairie, Wisc./Amarillo Bulls) two-minute infraction for cross-checking.
Dahlseide wasn’t done, though – a wraparound goal on the left post with 4:35 to go put North Iowa back ahead by five, and gave the hosts their final marker of the night. 828 fans witnessed the Bulls clinch their sixth straight division championship and the third straight in the Central Division.
Cain made 27 saves on 29 Freeze shots, while Will Graves was peppered for 32 shots, making just 25 saves on the evening. Cain becomes the first goaltender in Bulls history to rack up 26 wins in a season, topping the record held jointly by Matthew Bartels (2012-13) and Chris Amsden (2013-14).
The final regular-season meeting between North Iowa and La Crosse is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night, as the Bulls celebrate Read Across America week with Dr. Seuss Night at the North Ice Arena. Famed Dr. Seuss favorites The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat will make appearances at Saturday night’s game.