MASON CITY, Iowa – Especially in a week like this one, the metaphor of a snowball rolling down the hill seems rather appropriate. Roll one down the right hill and there’s no telling how big it might get or how much snow it might pick up.
North Iowa’s scoring snowballed in the second period of Saturday night’s game, with the Bulls turning a 3-0 lead into an eight-goal rout in just over three minutes on the way to an 8-1 win over the New Ulm Steel. The win was North Iowa’s 18th in a row on home ice, and with 927 fans in the building, they did it in front of their biggest crowd of the COVID-impacted season.
North Iowa grabbed the lead just 3:56 into the game as Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) tucked one off the roof of the net and over the shoulder of A.J. Cohen, giving the Bulls an early 1-0 lead. A slashing call against Tommy Michelsen gave the Bulls a power play near the halfway mark of the period, and Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) slipped home a rebound at 11:02 to give the Bulls a goal with just 13 seconds left on the man-advantage.
The lead went to 3-0 when Shota Kaneko (Tokyo, Japan/Team Japan U20) found a bouncing puck in the bottom corner of the right-wing faceoff circle and snuck it into the top corner of the net just 3:44 out of the intermission.
The floodgates finally opened at 8:37 of the period, on a drop pass from Sota Isogai (Nagano, Japan/North Iowa Bulls) that Kyle Heffron (Rosemount, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) ripped past Cohen for a 4-0 advantage.
The Bulls added on just 56 seconds on a well-screened shot from the slot from Jones, his second tally of the night. They added on again at 10:19 when Nick Mohs-Messerli (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) dragged the puck across the mouth of the goal and beat newly-inserted New Ulm netminder Griffin Foster to make it 6-0.
Just 47 seconds after that, Max Savaloja (Eau Claire, Wis./Memorial H.S.) made it a 7-0 contest by banging in a rebound off of a point-blank chance from Kaneko that found Savaloja on Foster’s left post. New Ulm was finally able to shut off the scoring spigot after Isogai’s goal at the 11:40 mark – Heffron slung a pass to Isogai in the slot, and he would walk it to the post and toss in a backhand shot for an 8-0 lead.
“I think it was just confidence,” said Savaloja of the Bulls’ five-goal outburst. “Everyone started using each other – it was all passing plays and rebounds. There were no selfish plays and it was really nice to see.”
New Ulm got on the board on a sprint down the left-wing boards from James Spaargaren, who hustled the puck in front of the net and chipped it past Max Gutjahr (Appleton, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) on his stick side with 3:37 to go in the second period.
Despite the lack of scoring in the third period, North Iowa controlled the pace from the word “go,” racking up 15 of the 21 shots in the first period and 21 of the 26 shots on net in the second period. The action in the final period instead came from Savaloja and Corey Stormer, who pulled each other to the ice and mixed it up behind the play with 4:19 to go. Each received a two-minute roughing minor and a 10-minute misconduct, ending their nights.
Gutjahr finished with 17 saves, earning his first win as a Bull, while Cohen took the loss with 19 saves on 24 North Iowa shots. Foster picked up the no-decision in relief, making 17 of the 20 saves asked of him. The Bulls wrapped up the night 1-for-3 on the power play, and killed off both of New Ulm’s chances with the extra man.
Jones headlined the scoring with his two goals, but Lucas Jorgenson came up big with three assists, and six other Bulls closed the evening with two points apiece. North Iowa exits the weekend with a record of 17-4 for the season, while New Ulm fell to 4-15-2 with Saturday’s loss.
The win ends a five-game homestand for North Iowa, as they travel to Granite City for a mid-week makeup contest on Wednesday night. The opening puck drop between the Bulls and Lumberjacks is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Sports Arena East in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls’ 10th Anniversary season are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
New Ulm 0 1 0 – 1
North Iowa 2 6 0 – 8
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Newpower 9 (Jorgenson, Huffman), 3:58. 2, North Iowa, Jones 8 (Sloth, Jorgenson), 11:05 (PP). Penalties-Michelsen Num (slashing-minor), 9:15; Maillette Num (tripping-minor), 14:02.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Kaneko 4 (Savaloja, Freeman), 3:52. 4, North Iowa, Heffron 5 (Isogai, Cichosz), 8:38. 5, North Iowa, Jones 9 (Jorgenson, Cichosz), 9:34. 6, North Iowa, Mohs-Messerli 3 (Campion), 10:18. 7, North Iowa, Savaloja 5 (Freeman, Kaneko), 11:07. 8, North Iowa, Isogai 13 (Heffron, Collins), 11:43. 9, New Ulm, Spaargaren 11 (Bromberg, Barry), 16:25. Penalties-Jones Nio (cross checking-minor), 0:30.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Dorn Num (hooking-minor), 0:36; Isogai Nio (hooking-minor), 7:00; Stormer Num (roughing-minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 15:44; Savaloja Nio (roughing-minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 15:44.
Shots on Goal-New Ulm 6-5-7-18. North Iowa 15-21-8-44.
Power Play Opportunities-New Ulm 0 / 2; North Iowa 1 / 3.
Goalies-New Ulm, Cohen 2-6-0-0 (24 shots-19 saves); Foster 3-4-0-0 (20 shots-17 saves). North Iowa, Gutjahr 1-0-0-0 (18 shots-17 saves).
Linesmen-Ethan Fox, Aaron McCrary.