SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – For all 60 minutes of Friday night’s rivalry tilt between the North Iowa Bulls and the Granite City Lumberjacks, there was no giving an inch. The teams ate shots on defense, rang a couple off the posts on offense, and trusted that their goaltenders would be up to the task of stopping everything that came their way.
And they were.
A couple of fortuitous bounces in the opening four minutes, though, made the difference as North Iowa dropped a 2-0 matchup to the Lumberjacks, leaving Granite City as the lone remaining unbeaten team in the West Division just two games into the 2020-21 season.
At the game’s 2:36 mark, a backhand pass from the corner caught John Blake at the top of the left-wing faceoff circle, and his wrist shot clipped Brockston Masseth in front of the net and trickled through for a 1-0 Granite City lead.
Just before the four-minute mark, the Lumberjacks struck again on a break into the North Iowa zone. Brett Reed and Tal Halliday criss-crossed the puck through the slot, with the latter pass catching Jonah Jangula on the doorstep for a tap-in to make it 2-0.
“We’ve got to come out and play a full 60 minutes,” said Bulls goalie Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls). “Even against Alexandria, we came out slow the first 10 minutes, and they went up 1-0. Here, they went up 2-0, and that’s the story of the game. They kind of wanted it more.”
After that, it was all grit and grind, with the penalty-killing units more than doing their work. Each team finished the night a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Bailey Huber did the rest of the work for Granite City, stopping all 22 North Iowa shots for his fifth shutout as a Lumberjack. Babekuhl made 28 saves, taking the loss.
The result was a rarity for North Iowa – it was only the Bulls’ sixth shutout loss in franchise history and the team’s first shutout loss since March 1, 2018, also a loss to Granite City.
The Bulls and Lumberjacks return to action Saturday night, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop at Sports Arena East in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV.
Two more road games await the Bulls before they return home Saturday, October 17 to face New Ulm for “Hocktoberfest.” Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls 10th Anniversary season are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase tickets to any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
North Iowa 0 0 0 – 0
Granite City 2 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Granite City, Masseth 2 (Blake, O’Leary), 2:36. 2, Granite City, Jangula 1 (Reed, Halliday), 3:58. Penalties-Richert Gcy (cross checking-minor), 20:00.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Nauss Nio (tripping-minor), 13:10.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Halliday Gcy (interference-minor), 2:42; Triemert Nio (roughing-minor), 3:55; Benson Gcy (tripping-minor), 6:31; Nauss Nio (interference-minor), 8:11; Benson Gcy (cross checking-minor), 14:41; Duren Nio (holding-minor), 19:22.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 9-5-8-22. Granite City 10-11-9-30.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 4; Granite City 0 / 4.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 1-1-0-0 (30 shots-28 saves). Granite City, Huber 2-0-0-0 (22 shots-22 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Matthew Heinen.