MASON CITY, Iowa – The jerseys are as cold as a mountain stream, but North Iowa Bulls forward Dylan Gajewski (Woodhaven, Mich./Austin Bruins) could hardly be hotter right now.
Wearing special Busch Light-themed jerseys amid the first fierce winter storm of the season, the Bulls surrendered a two-goal third-period lead but got a hat trick from Gajewski for a 4-3 overtime win over the Springfield Jr. Blues Friday night in the first-ever meeting between the teams. After scoring his first goal 5:55 into the second period last Friday night against the St. Cloud Norsemen, he has already racked up six goals in fewer than eight full periods as a Bull.
North Iowa started about as hot as could be on Friday, racking up a 17-5 shots-on-goal advantage in the first period, including all of the game’s first five shots. The fifth one got the scoring started, halfway through a power play thanks to a cross-checking call against Springfield’s Cole Schneider. After receiving a pass from Sean Vlasich (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Amarillo Bulls) across the ice, Gajewski’s shot from the left point beat goaltender Aksel Reid along the ice just 2:50 into the contest, putting the Bulls in front early.
He would help set up North Iowa’s next tally at the 12:15 mark of the period, when Vlasich banked a one-timer from the left point off the crossbar and into the net, putting the Bulls firmly in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 lead. Tyler Braccini (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) earned the secondary assist on that goal, giving him his first point as a Bull in his North Iowa debut.
Springfield did its best to wrestle control away in the second period, posting a 13-5 margin on shots and trimming the deficit to a goal going to the third. Making his debut with the Jr. Blues, Jack Boxer found fellow Springfield newcomer Isaac Novak at the post for a tap-in to cut the North Iowa lead to 2-1 at the 7:16 mark of the period.
The Bulls looked to be back on their way with another goal from Gajewski at 4:54 of the third period, guiding the puck down the slot and backhanding it in to beat Reid and give North Iowa its second two-goal lead of the night.
However, the Jr. Blues would erase it in less than three minutes midway through the third, on back-to-back goals from Hagen Moe. At 9:09 of the period, Moe wrapped the puck around the left-wing post with Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) committed to his left after attempting to cover up the puck and force a whistle. With 8:12 left, Moe would deposit a second goal into the net to tie the game at 3-3 after taking a backdoor pass from Zach Bade.
The next nine-and-a-half minutes were a stalemate, but Gajewski had the final word at 1:35 of overtime, jogging the puck into the Jr. Blues zone and tossing the puck past Reid into the top corner of the net to seal the victory.
Gajewski and Moe were the headliners on the offensive side of the puck, but Vlasich had a solid showing of his own with a goal and an assist, and Tristan Shewchuk had two assists for the visitors. Gajewski’s hat trick was the second of his junior career, earning his only other three-goal night on the same Mason City Arena rink on March 4 to help the Willmar WarHawks top the Bulls late during the 2020-21 NA3HL season.
North Iowa went 1-for-5 on the power play and held the NAHL’s top power play unit without a goal on three chances. Garvey earned his 10th win of the season, making 21 saves on Springfield’s 24 chances. Reid took the loss, with 27 saves on 31 North Iowa shots.
The Bulls ended a four-game losing streak with the victory, and concluded a four-game winning streak for the Jr. Blues in the process, moving to 14-7-1-2 on the year and staying atop a crowded Central Division field. Austin, North Iowa and Minot all won on Friday, giving each team 31 points in the standings, but the Bulls have the nominal lead with the highest points percentage in the division. Springfield fell to 17-8-1-1 for the year, and has still earned a standings point in five straight contests.
The teams meet again Saturday night at the Mason City Arena as North Iowa closes the 2021 portion of its home schedule. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage available on HockeyTV and Mixlr. Saturday’s game will feature visits from Santa Claus and other beloved holiday characters, in addition to the team’s postgame skate and jersey auction
Tickets for that game and all upcoming North Iowa home games are on sale now – to purchase advance tickets to any Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Springfield 0 1 2 0 – 3
North Iowa 2 0 1 1 – 4
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Gajewski 7 (Vlasich, Dombrowsky), 2:50 (PP). 2, North Iowa, Vlasich 3 (Gajewski, Braccini), 12:15. Penalties-Schneider Spr (cross checking-minor), 1:51; Stacey Nio (hooking-minor), 6:36; Novak Spr (slashing-minor), 18:28.
2nd Period-3, Springfield, Novak 1 (Boxer, Shewchuk), 7:16. Penalties-Roepke Nio (tripping-minor), 0:19; Roepke Nio (holding-minor), 5:28; Dosan Spr (interference-minor), 6:15; Schneider Spr (hooking-minor), 18:26.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Gajewski 8 (Stacey), 4:54. 5, Springfield, Moe 8 (Shewchuk, Scott), 9:09. 6, Springfield, Moe 9 (Bade, Smith), 11:48. Penalties-Moe Spr (high sticking-minor), 14:37.
OT Period-7, North Iowa, Gajewski 9 1:35. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Springfield 5-13-6-0-24. North Iowa 17-5-8-1-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 0 / 3; North Iowa 1 / 5.
Goalies-Springfield, Reid 2-4-1-0 (31 shots-27 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 10-4-1-2 (24 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Ethan Fox, Matt Valerio.