MASON CITY, Iowa – Before the North Iowa Bulls’ game on Saturday, Bulls forward Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./Philly Little Flyers 18U) saw his late grandfather “Pop-Pop” Dave Apgar honored on the Mason City Arena videoboard as part of the team’s tribute for Military Appreciation Night. Hartley made his grandfather and all of his family back in Philadelphia plenty proud, scoring two goals in a 5-3 win over the Austin Bruins, earning a sweep and sending North Iowa back into first place in the Central Division standings.
Saturday’s game took a similar path to Friday’s affair early on, with Austin scoring just 33 seconds into the contest. Sutter Muzzatti was parked in front of the North Iowa net, and Carson Riddle’s shot from the left wing clipped him on the way past Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) for the game’s opening goal.
North Iowa answered back just three minutes later, after Hudson Hodges made a save on a Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Twin City Thunder) shot from the blue line – the ensuing scramble saw Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) push the puck through Hodges and tie the game up at 1-1.
Unlike Friday’s game, though, the Bulls were able to grab the lead before the first intermission – Hunter Bulger (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) found a loose puck next to the goal frame to Hodges’s right and stuffed it in the net past his right skate to give North Iowa a 2-1 advantage with 3:21 left in the period. However, just like Friday’s game, Austin answered back to tie it at 2-2, when Therien Thiesing’s shot from the top of the zone redirected off of Jens Richards and into the net just 1:20 into the period.
Hartley went to work shortly after that, chasing down the puck in front of the penalty boxes and racing it in for a forehand goal on the breakaway at 6:20 to give the Bulls the lead for good. His goal at 9:38 of the period was as highlight-reel-worthy as any, pushing the puck around a defender coming into the Austin zone, kicking the puck back to his stick and walking it into the net with another forehand goal to push North Iowa ahead, 4-2.
The Bruins weren’t done, though, thanks to Muzzatti’s second goal off of a right-wing shot from Damon Furuseth, who curled around the net before firing it on from the right wing with 1:13 left in the period. Muzzatti was waiting on the weak side for the rebound, and banged in the second chance to trim the lead to a goal going to the third.
The third period was a stalemate, save for one North Iowa addition to the scoring column with 1:42 to go – Rapalje added a second goal, when Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) found him at center ice, and Rapalje slid the puck into the empty net from just inside the blue line to cement the Bulls’ third win in the head-to-head series so far.
“They’re a really tough team,” said Potter. “They press hard, and we just had to get pucks around them and bury our chances. These were two really tough games, but it’s good to get the sweep and get some time off.”
Muzzatti, Hartley and Rapalje all enjoyed two-goal nights, while Potter notched two assists. Garvey was downright wicked in net for North Iowa, making 31 saves on 34 chances for his fourth straight win, while Hodges took the loss on 17 saves.
With the win, the Bulls moved their record to 10-0 when going into the third period with the lead. North Iowa also stopped the Austin power play cold, keeping the Bruins off the board on all four of their power play chances, while the Bulls went 0-for-2 on theirs.
The Bulls have just one game on the schedule this coming week, as they square off with the St. Cloud Norsemen for the very first time on Saturday night. The opening puck drop at the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex is slated for 7 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and Mixlr.
North Iowa returns to home ice on Saturday, November 27 for their Black Friday weekend battle against the Bruins. Fans are encouraged to wear black to that night’s game, and black t-shirts will be available for sale the night of the game as well. Tickets for that game and all North Iowa home games are on sale now – to purchase advance tickets to any upcoming 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.
Austin 1 2 0 – 3
North Iowa 2 2 1 – 5
1st Period-1, Austin, Muzzatti 4 (Riddle, Jean-Louis), 0:33. 2, North Iowa, Rapalje 12 (Mesic, Potter), 3:28. 3, North Iowa, Bulger 7 (Mexico, Dadie), 16:39. Penalties-Trombley Aus (tripping-minor), 13:49; Mesic Nio (hooking-minor), 14:19.
2nd Period-4, Austin, Richards 12 (Thiesing, Brassard), 1:20. 5, North Iowa, Hartley 5 (Potter), 6:20. 6, North Iowa, Hartley 6 (Vlasich, Japchen), 9:38. 7, Austin, Muzzatti 5 (Furuseth, Gajewski), 18:47. Penalties-Cline Nio (tripping-minor), 14:10; Japchen Nio (checking from behind-minor, checking from behind-10 misc), 20:00.
3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Rapalje 13 (Dombrowsky, Mesic), 18:18 (EN). Penalties-Morich Nio (interference-minor), 7:34; Whitehouse Aus (interference-minor), 15:34; Trombley Aus (delay of game-minor), 19:59.
Shots on Goal-Austin 11-15-8-34. North Iowa 10-4-8-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Austin 0 / 4; North Iowa 0 / 2.
Goalies-Austin, Hodges 7-4-1-0 (21 shots-17 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 8-2-0-2 (34 shots-31 saves).
Referees-Jared Cummins, Nick Klinkhammer.
Linesmen-Grant Crowell, J. Morrison.