AUSTIN, Minn. – Barring a postseason meeting in the Robertson Cup playoffs, the North Iowa Bulls and Austin Bruins closed out the first round of a brand-new rivalry Saturday night with a defensive struggle and a night to remember for both netminders. North Iowa snagged a late power-up in the second period with a goal from Greg Japchen (Doylestown, Pa./Amarillo Bulls), but a two-goal lead prior to that gave the Bruins just enough cushion to outlast the Bulls for a 2-1 win, giving them wins in seven of the 12 meetings this regular season.
Austin took its only lead of the game at the 6:55 mark of the first period, with Walter Zacher driving the puck down the left wing and guiding the puck to his right for Alex Trombley, who dragged it around a defender and tucked it into the top of the net to beat Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) and put the Bruins ahead, 1-0.
The hosts took a 12-9 shots-on-goal advantage to the second period, but the Bulls tacked on to their urgency in the second period with 17 shots in the middle stanza. The lead went to 2-0 late in the period, though, when a quick possession change at the end of a penalty to Liam Whitehouse allowed the Bruins to set up an odd-man rush going into the North Iowa zone – Zacher’s shot from the right half beat Garvey high to finish up the 3-on-1 with 3:07 left in the period.
A brief brouhaha between Carson Riddle and Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Mason City Toros) put the teams on a 4-on-4 moments later, though, and Japchen snagged the momentum right back with 49 seconds left in the period, taking a pass from Michael Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Honeybaked 16U) and sending a shot down the slot that bounded off of Ethan Robertson and into the net.
North Iowa posted a valiant comeback effort in the third period, peppering the Austin net with 13 shots over the final 20 minutes and picking up a pair of power plays along the way. North Iowa sent several shots on the net in the final two minutes, spending that entire stretch on one final man-advantage and spending the last 54 seconds on a 6-on-4 with an empty net, but Robertson and his defense turned away every last North Iowa opportunity to seal the win and the weekend sweep.
The Bulls finished without a power play goal in the game despite six chances on the night, while the Bruins scored on one of their three power play looks. Robertson earned his sixth win of the season, tying a career-high with 38 saves, while Garvey was tagged with the loss despite a 34-save performance. Zacher had the only multi-point showing for the second straight night, posting a goal and an assist.
The win pushed the Bruins past Minot in the Central Division standings, with a 25-21-2-3 record exiting the weekend. North Iowa dropped to 21-23-2-4 with the loss, and moved into sixth place in the division by virtue of its loss and Bismarck’s 5-2 win at Aberdeen. The Bulls remain six points back of the fourth-place Minotauros with 10 games remaining on the regular-season schedule.
After playing 14 of their last 19 on the road, the Bulls will spend almost all of the home stretch on home ice, playing eight of their remaining 10 contests at home, starting with next Friday and Saturday’s home series against the Aberdeen Wings. Friday’s opening puck drop is slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Mason City Arena, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and Mixlr.
To purchase advance tickets to next Friday’s game or any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 0 1 0 – 1
Austin 1 1 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Austin, Trombley 5 (Zacher, Simmons-Fischer), 6:59. Penalties-Stacey Nio (slashing-minor), 10:07; Larkin Aus (holding-minor), 12:11; Richards Aus (kneeing-minor), 18:20.
2nd Period-2, Austin, Zacher 10 (Thiesing, Catalano), 16:54 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Japchen 10 (Mesic), 19:11. Penalties-Richards Aus (goalie interference-minor), 11:11; Whitehouse Aus (interference-minor), 14:46; Scott Nio (tripping-minor), 15:14; Campion Nio (interference-minor, fighting-major, fighting-10 misc), 18:07; Riddle Aus (fighting(instigator, fighting-major, fighting (secondary)-gm)-minor, fighting-major, fighting (secondary)-gm), 18:07.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Domina Nio (tripping-minor), 4:39; Simmons-Fischer Aus (head contact-minor), 9:37; Muzzatti Aus (hooking-minor), 18:02.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 9-17-13-39. Austin 12-13-11-36.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 6; Austin 1 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Garvey 14-16-1-4 (36 shots-34 saves). Austin, Robertson 6-4-1-1 (39 shots-38 saves).
Referees-Phillip Kasko, Tatu Kunto.
Linesmen-Ian Carlson, Reilly Hickey.