MASON CITY, Iowa – Todd Sanden’s North Iowa team wasn’t interested in blending into the background on Camo Night at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) pounded in a hat trick and Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./Austin Bruins) added a couple more in a 9-1 win, putting the Bulls at 15-0-2-1 heading into the Thanksgiving holiday.
Just after ringing one off the post, Cameron Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) put one away to give North Iowa the initial lead at 7:15 of the first period. Dolter poked one in less than three minutes later for a 2-0 lead, but Kyle Schott earned his first junior goal right off the faceoff at 13:44 to drop the lead back to a goal.
The margin returned to two goals with 2:34 left in the period, on a 2-on-0 break – Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) picked the puck free at the blue line and sprinted to the net. His shot was blocked, but lay loose in front of the net for Dolter to poke in for a 3-1 margin at the first intermission.
After that, it was all North Iowa – Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) slid one in under Drew Schenkenberg 6:43 into the second period for a 4-1 lead. Less than two minutes later, Blackowiak ripped one past Schenkenberg off of a tape-to-tape weak-side pass from Ivan Bogach (Brooklyn, N.Y./Shattuck-St. Mary’s U18).
After Peter Verstegen‘s (Oshkosh, Wis./Oshkosh H.S.) goal on the Ice Hawks doorstep at 11:21 of the second period, Rochester head coach Eric Hofmann opted to make his move, replacing Schenkenberg in net with Tait Carlson. The Bulls would beat the new netminder with just over seven minutes remaining in the period, with Blackowiak setting up Alex Timm (Sand Creek, Wis./Northwest H.S.) for a short tap-in to make it a 7-1 game after the second period.
Both teams would gather up extra penalty time in the third period, but it wasn’t until the final 1:37 before North Iowa added the last of their goals for the night. Studioso found Dolter on the weak side to finish off the hat trick, and Blackowiak zipped one past Carlson from the left faceoff circle with 57 seconds remaining to cap the night.
Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) will head into Turkey Day still hunting for that first junior shutout, but he got close yet again Saturday. Cain finished the evening with 20 saves on 21 Rochester shots, the fourth time in the last month that he’s surrendered a single goal in a contest. Schenkenberg took the loss, allowing six goals on 26 shots on his way to a 4-7 record for the year.
“I have to give some credit to assistant coach Kevin Murdock tonight,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “He had some systems in place that I don’t think Rochester could handle. He kept them guessing with some odd line combinations and starting some guys that Rochester didn’t expect us to start. Our guys battled hard all night.”
With the win, North Iowa climbs to 33 points in the Central Division standings, and officially reclaims first place with two games in hand against the La Crosse Freeze.
The schedule gets a bit quirkier over the next two weeks – all of the Bulls’ next four games will be against the Wausau RiverWolves, including North Iowa’s first-ever visit to the Marathon Park Arena on Friday and Saturday night. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV.
The Bulls return to the “Madhouse in Mason City” on Dec. 1 and 2 as Wausau makes its first visit in team history to Mason City. The Saturday game that weekend will feature a postgame jersey auction to benefit the Worth County Full Strut chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. For advance tickets to those games, or any other Bulls home contests, click here.