ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – North Iowa was less than three minutes away from fighting off the Alexandria Blizzard for a pair of points on Friday night. A power play goal from the Blizzard with 2:46 to go, and a goal less than a minute into the extra session sent the Bulls to a stunning overtime loss, by a 3-2 final score.
Friday’s game was the first overtime affair for the Bulls since the final game of the 2017-18 Fraser Cup playoffs, a 4-3 loss to the La Crosse Freeze (now Coulee Region Chill). The loss ends a four-game winning streak for the Bulls against Alexandria, but it continues a run of 14 games against the Blizzard without a regulation loss.
Carter Rieland set up the opening scoring play of the game, hitting Brandon Connett at mid-slot before Connett rifled one past Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) to take the lead just 9:02 into the game.
The Bulls responded with one of their patented quick strikes, barely six minutes into the second period. With Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) leading a 3-on-1 charge into the Alexandria zone, Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) set up for a pass on the back door. That pass turned into a quick tap-in opportunity for Verstegen, tying the game at 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, it was Cam Fagerlee’s (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) turn to put one away, after having a pass cycled to him from behind the Alexandria net. The first assist on the play went to Marco Escobar (Plainfield, Ill./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18), who pulled the puck off the left-wing wall and got it to Fagerlee, who walked into the slot and let it fly for the go-ahead goal.
Each team had its power play chances in the third period, but only the Blizzard took advantage of theirs – Escobar was hit for a tripping minor with just 3:05 remaining, and the Blizzard didn’t wait long. Just 19 seconds later, Riley Scanlon pushed a pass from the right half-wall to the point nearby, setting up Joe Dokken for a one-timer that beat Skinner high for the tying goal.
With one point secured all the way around, it was Alexandria again taking advantage, this time on a give-and-go that developed in front of the penalty boxes. That play set up Val Popowski’s one-on-none rush to the net, scoring in the top left corner while skidding toward the net on one knee. That shot, just 57 seconds into the extra session, popped the water bottle off the top of the cage as well as the Bulls’ overtime bubble.
Despite the loss, Verstegen and Dahlseide continued their torrid runs against the Blizzard for this season. Verstegen has notched six goals and an assist in four outings against Alexandria, with two left in the head-to-head series. Dahlseide had an assist to stretch his total to eight points in four games against his former team, including a couple of goals.
Skinner took the loss, ending an eight-game winning streak with 32 saves in 35 chances. Finnish native Ville Hyttinen had 34 saves in 36 chances, going the extra mile for his fourth win of the season.
Alexandria finished 1-for-5 on the power play, while the Bulls missed out on each of their six chances. North Iowa is 0-for-its-last-19 on the man-advantage and is still on the hunt for its first power play goal in 2019.
The waters have only gotten muddier in the races for first and fourth in the NA3HL West Division. With the loss, the Bulls sink to 23-7-1-0 for the year, even with Granite City at the top of the division and just a point clear of third-place Rochester. The Lumberjacks have two games in hand on North Iowa, who itself has a game in hand on the Grizzlies. Alexandria slid ahead of New Ulm for fourth place in the standings, though the Steel still hold a game in hand themselves on the Blizzard.
Up next is a rematch on Saturday evening, back at the Runestone Community Center. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:10 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns to the “Barn” on Wednesday night for a Faith and Family Night exhibition game against the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres, with a pregame message and live music during intermission. Church groups of 10 or more will also receive discounted admission. For advance tickets to that game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
North Iowa 0 2 0 0 – 2
Alexandria 1 0 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Alexandria, Connett 11 (Rieland, Curry), 9:02. Penalties-Escobar Nio (tripping-minor), 9:27; Scanlon Alx (cross checking-minor), 9:27; Verstegen Nio (tripping-minor), 13:17; Sanborn Alx (slashing-minor), 18:21.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Verstegen 24 (Dahlseide, Stewart), 6:02. 3, North Iowa, Fagerlee 12 (Escobar, Johnson), 7:51. Penalties-Wagner Nio (roughing-minor), 13:07; Meister Alx (roughing-minor), 13:07.
3rd Period-4, Alexandria, Dokken 12 (Scanlon), 17:14 (PP). Penalties-Fagerlee Nio (holding-minor), 4:12; Meister Alx (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 4:45; Meister Alx (high sticking-minor), 12:03; Escobar Nio (tripping-minor), 16:55; Lehmann Alx (hooking-minor), 17:25.
OT Period-5, Alexandria, Popowski 4 (Giorgio, Meister), 0:57. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 12-14-10-0-36. Alexandria 12-9-13-1-35.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 6; Alexandria 1 / 5.
Goalies-North Iowa, Skinner 10-2-1-0 (35 shots-32 saves). Alexandria, Hyttinen 5-4-0-1 (36 shots-34 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Jordan Staples.