NEW ULM, Minn. – After a 2-1 loss to the New Ulm Steel on Friday night, focus and detail were the two “words of the day” for the North Iowa Bulls’ road trip north to New Ulm on Saturday. It started with a quiet two-hour bus ride, and it ended with a 6-1 win over the Steel that vaulted the Bulls back into the win column and into the NA3HL West Division points lead.
North Iowa made its presence known early, with Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) putting the Bulls on the board first just 3:04 into the contest. Bowlin buried a turnaround shot from the left-wing faceoff circle to take the early lead. North Iowa got chances early in the game, but couldn’t capitalize again despite a 15-7 shots-on-goal advantage in the first 20 minutes.
“I picked up the puck and looked out front for a pass, and I didn’t see any blue jerseys open,” said Bowlin. “I just decided to turn quick and fire it at the net. I found a spot in the low corner and the goalie wasn’t ready for it. He thought I was passing it too.”
Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) did his damage in the second period, burying a chance just 54 seconds out of the locker room and adding on barely four minutes later for a 3-0 lead. The first came on a shot that beat Henry Baribeau on his blocker side, while Verstegen hesitated a split-second before tossing in the second goal from the slot on a pass from Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls).
A too-many-men penalty late in the second period opened the door for New Ulm to cut into the lead, with Michael Smits firing one in from above the right-wing faceoff circle. That goal beat Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) and busted up the shutout with 3:08 remaining in the second stanza. The goal also came at a critical instant in the power play, just four seconds before the North Iowa penalty time ran out.
The third period belonged entirely to the Bulls – a point shot from Evan Junker (Elk River, Minn./Elk River H.S.) hit Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) in front, trickling into the net just 45 seconds into the final period. Bowlin picked up his second goal of the game with 8:11 to go, hitting a New Ulm defender in front of the cage with a point shot along the way.
Dahlseide’s goal to cap the scoring was a clean one, sniping one over Baribeau’s left shoulder with 6:29 to go. That goal also set a new high for North Iowa on the New Ulm ice, after scoring five goals in each of their last four road games against the Steel.
“It’s a good breath of air,” said Verstegen. “You’ve got to jump on them early, and when you can pop that quick one, you know you’re doing something right and it’s a step forward toward the rest of the game.”
Babekuhl picked up his fifth win in his last six outings, stopping 28 of the 29 Steel shots he faced to improve to 6-4-0-0. Just a night after earning his first-ever victory over North Iowa, Baribeau was tagged with the loss, making 38 saves on 44 chances and dropping to 11-10-0-1.
Junker and Jack Giddings (Anoka, Minn./Anoka H.S.) had impressive nights of their own, with a couple of assists apiece. North Iowa finished 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Steel ended the night 1-for-3 with the extra man.
The win kept Todd Sanden’s team unbeaten in six appearances all-time in New Ulm, but also gave the Bulls the points lead in the NA3HL West Division standings, thanks to a Rochester victory over Granite City. The Lumberjacks still hold the higher winning percentage, with two games in hand.
North Iowa has won 18 of 20 since starting the season 5-5, while the Steel came into the night having won nine of their last 12. The Bulls continue their road trip on Friday and Saturday of next week, with a two-game visit to the Alexandria Blizzard. Both games are set for a 7:10 p.m. puck drop at the Runestone Community Center, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns home on Wednesday, January 16 to face the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres in a Faith and Family Night exhibition. For advance tickets to that game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
North Iowa 1 2 3 – 6
New Ulm 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Bowlin 3 3:04. Penalties-Fagerlee Nio (boarding-minor), 8:38; Ford Num (slashing-minor), 10:38; Johnson Num (slashing-minor), 14:20.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Verstegen 22 (Dahlseide, Giddings), 0:54. 3, North Iowa, Verstegen 23 (Dahlseide, Giddings), 4:56. 4, New Ulm, Smits 2 (Spaargaren, Parks), 16:52 (PP). Penalties-served by Bogach Nio (too many men-minor), 14:55; Savelkoul Num (slashing-minor), 17:48.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Studioso 17 (Junker), 0:45. 6, North Iowa, Bowlin 4 (Junker, Johnson), 11:49. 7, North Iowa, Dahlseide 15 (Giddings, Junker), 13:31. Penalties-Hodgkinson Num (unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 5:57; Dahlseide Nio (tripping-minor), 9:07; Storlie Num (slashing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 16:16.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 15-13-16-44. New Ulm 7-11-11-29.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 4; New Ulm 1 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 6-4-0-0 (29 shots-28 saves). New Ulm, Baribeau 11-10-0-1 (44 shots-38 saves).
Linesmen-Aaron Mostrom, Cody Clark.