ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – Each of the last three seasons, the North Iowa Bulls were facing Central Division teams in their chase for the Fraser Cup. This year, the Bulls are back in the West, and the Bulls are one of the last six teams standing after a 5-1 win over the Alexandria Blizzard on Saturday night.
The last time the Bulls traveled to Alexandria to face the Blizzard, the team was in the midst of a four-game losing streak and took a 4-1 defeat in late January. This time, the Bulls put away two goals in the opening 7:11 of Saturday night’s game, and left no doubt in their final matchup of the season at the Runestone Community Center.
The win clinches a two-game sweep in the NA3HL West Division Finals, and sends North Iowa to the Fraser Cup national championship tournament for the sixth time in seven years.
Joey Petronack’s (White Bear Lake, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) point shot set up the first goal, with Nick Johnson (New Richmond, Wis./Team Wisconsin) waiting to finish in front of the net for the opening goal just 2:45 into the game. Just past the seven-minute mark, Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret H.S.) grabbed a faceoff and a touch from Johnson put Jack Giddings (Anoka, Minn./Anoka H.S.) in position to push the puck past Ville Hyttinen for a 2-0 lead.
“It’s hard to win (games) here,” said Johnson. “They have a lot of good fans here, and it was key to score right away and get on top, and take that momentum away from them.”
If those two goals had the Bulls feeling good, they were feeling great by the game’s midway point. Jarod Blackowiak’s (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) shot from the left wing bounced off of Hyttinen right to Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) at the post, who jousted it into the net at 9:22 for a 3-0 lead.
By the end of the second period, the Bulls had full control of the contest. With 4:07 left in the stanza, a pass from Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) found Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) in front of the net for a one-timer and a 4-0 lead.
Jack Powell broke up the shutout at 9:10 of the third period on a power play, getting Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede 18U) to commit to a left-wing shot before sweeping it in front and putting it in underneath the Bulls netminder. However, Carter Wagner (Lino Lakes, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) put the lead at four goals to stay with his snipe from just off the right edge of the slot with 4:29 to play.
Skinner closed out the night with 32 saves, his third win in a row. The Montana native has made at least 31 saves in all three games in that winning streak, and has only given up one goal in each.
“They’re competitors. They throw a little bit of everything (at you),” said Skinner. “It wasn’t an easy win, but it was fun. They put it to us, and we gave it right back. It was a good win, and a good series.”
Hyttinen allowed 22 saves on 26 shots before exiting the game late in the second period. Kyle Hayden came on in relief to make 11 saves on the Bulls’ final 12 shots.
Four different Bulls players had multi-point contests, including Johnson and Studioso, who finished with a goal and an assist apiece. Roo and Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) had two assists each.
The Bulls open Fraser Cup pool play on Thursday afternoon against the top-seeded Lewiston/Auburn Nordiques from the NA3HL’s Coastal Division, with a 4 p.m. puck drop at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, Illinois. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV.
2019-20 season tickets are now available, with early-bird discounts through May 1. For more information on North Iowa Bulls season tickets, click here.
North Iowa 2 2 1 – 5
Alexandria 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Johnson 3 (Petronack, Roo), 2:45. 2, North Iowa, Giddings 1 (Johnson, Roo), 7:11. Penalties-Prisbe Alx (hooking-minor), 10:43.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Studioso 3 (Blackowiak, McDermott), 9:22. 4, North Iowa, Bowlin 2 (Dahlseide, Studioso), 15:53. Penalties-Bowlin Nio (roughing-minor), 11:03; Busse Alx (roughing-minor), 11:03; Meister Alx (roughing-minor), 11:03; Petronack Nio (roughing-minor), 18:13.
3rd Period-5, Alexandria, Powell 1 (Dokken), 9:10 (PP). 6, North Iowa, Wagner 3 (McDermott, Carlson), 15:31 (PP). Penalties-Scanlon Alx (head contact-minor), 6:25; Fagerlee Nio (slashing-minor), 8:47; Scanlon Alx (abuse of official-10 misc), 11:50; Rieland Alx (roughing-minor), 14:35; Rozman Nio (roughing-minor), 17:14; Duckson Alx (slashing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 17:14.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 15-13-10-38. Alexandria 12-6-15-33.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 1 / 5; Alexandria 1 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Skinner (33 shots-32 saves). Alexandria, Hyttinen (26 shots-22 saves); Hayden (12 shots-11 saves).
Linesmen-Colin Briscoe, Colton Capelle.