WILLMAR, Minn. – Elijah Slagter’s goal with eight minutes left in the second period tied the game at 2-2 and forced the North Iowa Bulls to take command if they wanted to beat the seventh-place team in the NA3HL West Division.
Take command they did, taking the lead with 1:30 to go in the second period and tacking on four more in the third period. In all, the Bulls racked up five unanswered goals for a 7-2 win over the Willmar WarHawks to snap a four-game losing skid, the team’s longest since September of 2011.
It didn’t take long for North Iowa to get the initial lead – after scoring goals on back-to-back nights last weekend against Granite City, Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) stepped up and struck just 4:13 in, on a rebound following a right-wing toss from Carter Wagner (Lino Lakes, Minn./Minnesota Magicians).
The Bulls played with a one-goal lead for almost an entire period, when Jack Giddings (Anoka, Minn./Anoka H.S.) forced a turnover in the corner at the Willmar end of the rink. A pass back out to Joey Petronack (White Bear Lake, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) hit Nick Johnson (New Richmond, Wis./Team Wisconsin) in front of the net, and bounced in for a 2-0 lead.
At 5:35 of the second period, Marquez Ginger landed on the score sheet, thanks to a one-timer goal on a pass from Sam Voss. His toss across the front of the net found Ginger on the doorstep for the quick tap-in to cut the lead to 2-1.
A charging penalty to Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) gave the WarHawks the opening they needed to tie the game – Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) smacked aside a rebound try from Dylan Svoboda, but Slagter’s third-chance shot ended up in the back of the net with 8:01 to go in the period.
After that, it was all North Iowa, starting with Matt Rozman’s go-ahead marker at 18:30 of the second period. Petronack found Rozman in front of the net at the end of a 3-on-2 chance, and Rozman dragged the puck to Lucas Ehrlich’s stick side before sliding it in for a 3-2 lead.
McDermott struck again, with Jarod Blackowiak‘s (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) short-distance shot bouncing off of Ehrlich and sitting in front of the net. McDermott tapped in the rebound just 50 seconds into the third period, pushing the lead to 4-2.
Wagner set up the next North Iowa goal, dragging the puck between two Willmar defenders in the slot before having his shot kicked wide, but Konnor Carlson (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley H.S.) was nearby to bang in the rebound for a 5-2 lead at 6:33 of the period.
Less than two minutes later, a turnover next to the post allowed the Bulls to take a couple of shots at the net. A brief game of tic-tac-toe around the crease set Blackowiak up to knock the puck into the net and push the lead to 6-2.
The Bulls finished their offensive work at the 10:49 mark of the third, as Matt Dahlseide’s (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) sharp-angle shot bounced out front for Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) to clean up the rebound and stretch the Bulls’ advantage to five goals.
Offensive chances abounded for both teams in the game, with North Iowa winning the shot count, 49-44. Babekuhl earned the win with 42 saves, running his record to 7-5-0-0 for the year. Lucas Ehrlich exited the game shortly after Verstegen’s goal, taking the loss with 35 saves. Jake Sumner made saves on all seven Bulls chances in relief for Willmar.
Seven North Iowa players ended the night with multiple points, led by McDermott with two goals and an assist. Blackowiak’s goal was his first of 2019, keeping him securely in second place on the Bulls’ goal-scoring leaderboard this season with 21.
Both teams got two power play chances on the night, but only Todd Sanden’s team was able to capitalize on one of its man-advantages. The Bulls climbed to 25-10-2-0 with the win, while Willmar’s record dipped to 9-29-2-0.
A three-in-three weekend continues on Saturday night, as North Iowa squares off with Willmar once again. It’ll be the final meeting between the two teams this season, with the WarHawks on the outside of the West Division playoff picture looking in. The opening puck drop at the Willmar Civic Center on Saturday night is set for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns to the “Barn” next Friday and Saturday night, as we celebrate our “Grateful Weekend” with Grateful Dead-inspired jerseys. Those will be auctioned off Saturday night, to benefit the Humane Society of North Iowa. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
North Iowa 1 2 4 – 7
Willmar 0 2 0 – 2
1st Period-1, North Iowa, McDermott 12 (Wagner, Junker), 4:13. Penalties-Granger Wil (tripping-minor), 10:17.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Johnson 3 (Giddings, Petronack), 3:32. 3, Willmar, Ginger 6 (Voss, Holt), 5:35. 4, Willmar, Slagter 16 (Svoboda, Holt), 11:59 (PP). 5, North Iowa, Rozman 8 (Petronack, Dahlseide), 18:30. Penalties-Carlson Nio (holding-minor), 6:00; Fagerlee Nio (charging-minor), 11:24; Svoboda Wil (high sticking-minor), 14:30.
3rd Period-6, North Iowa, McDermott 13 (Blackowiak, Studioso), 0:50. 7, North Iowa, Carlson 7 (Wagner, Fagerlee), 6:33. 8, North Iowa, Blackowiak 21 (Studioso, McDermott), 8:19. 9, North Iowa, Verstegen 25 (Dahlseide, Rozman), 10:49. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 17-16-16-49. Willmar 16-17-11-44.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 0; Willmar 1 / 0.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 7-5-0-0 (44 shots-42 saves). Willmar, Ehrlich 6-18-2-0 (42 shots-35 saves); Sumner 1-0-0-0 (7 shots-7 saves).
Linesmen-Nicholas Seppala, Andrew Bartholomay.