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MINOT, N.D. – Six contests into the season, the North Iowa Bulls are already grinding out their share of games. A night like the Bulls’ 9-7 midseason free-for-all against the Bismarck Bobcats last year could certainly happen again, but right now, games like that one feel a world away.
The Bulls battled their way through another grinder of a game on Saturday night, going more than halfway through the contest before breaking through with a power play goal on the way to a 2-1 win over the Minot Minotauros.
Nothing came of either team’s offensive effort in the opening 35 minutes, and both teams certainly had their chances to break through. Minot had a few more chances – they posted five of the first seven shots on goal, and enjoyed five power plays in the first half of the game, but North Iowa turned away every chance in sight.
Transition chances for the Bulls also came and went, with nothing reaching the back of the net.
North Iowa finally got its chance on a tripping call against Colby Woogk with 6:59 remaining in the period – with a fraction of a second remaining on the power play, Simone Dadie (Brunico, Italy/North Iowa Bulls) slipped a pass out to Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./North Iowa Bulls) in the right-wing faceoff circle, and his one-timer zipped past Dane Couture to give North Iowa a 1-0 lead.
One of the stranger goals of the season may have come at 9:04 of the third period, when Hartley sent a pass out front from Couture’s right. Instead of reaching Max Scott (San Jose, Calif./North Iowa Bulls) in front of the net, it caught defender Weston Knox’s stick and caromed past Couture to give Hartley his second goal of the night and the Bulls a two-goal lead.
“It was an unbelievable bounce,” said Hartley. “That was something we needed.”
After pitching a pair of shutouts at the North American Hockey League Showcase last week, goaltender Erik Chaffe (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Mason City Toros) nearly picked up another one Saturday. However, with an extended 6-on-5 sequence, the Minotauros ramped up the pressure and picked up their only goal with 57 seconds left.
A shot from Colby Joseph along the goal line clipped Chaffe and tipped off the post, with Braden Fischer only lightly connecting on his attempt to bat the bouncing puck out of mid-air. However, the puck wobbled just far enough to reach Cooper Rice, who tossed it into the net to trim the lead to 2-1.
Chaffe made 30 saves before giving up the goal, ultimately turning away the first 72 shots of his NAHL career before Rice’s last-minute marker for Minot. He would stop 32 of the 33 saves that came his way, narrowly missing a third straight shutout to start his Bulls career, which would have tied a record set by David Johnson to open the 2014-15 NA3HL campaign.
Couture took the loss with 21 saves on 23 North Iowa shots, with Minot out-shooting North Iowa in each individual period. The Bulls bagged one power play goal on four chances.
With his two goals, Hartley continued a torrid run that began last year with a team-best seven tallies against Minot. Dadie’s assist allowed him to end his week on a high note after scoring a power play goal of his own in Friday’s loss.
“Some teams may get a lot of shots, but they’re not good shots,” said Hartley. “We’re doing a lot better at protecting our house, and making sure no one’s coming in and getting grade-A shots or getting anything near the net.”
North Iowa moves to 4-2 with the win, while Minot fell back to 3-3 with the loss. The Bulls head to Austin, Minnesota next week for the first of their 12 meetings this season against the archrival Austin Bruins, followed by their home opener next Saturday night. Friday’s game at Riverside Arena is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and NorthIowaBulls.com.
Advance tickets to next Saturday’s home opener and all upcoming North Iowa home games are available online here. Updated news and information on Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 0 1 1 – 2
Minot 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Deveau Nio (illegal equipment-minor), 3:56; Stachowiak Mnt (slashing-minor), 7:19; Thiessen Nio (tripping-minor), 7:57; Deveau Nio (high sticking-minor), 10:23.
2nd Period-1, North Iowa, Hartley 1 (Dadie), 15:01 (PP). Penalties-Dombrowsky Nio (checking from behind-minor), 1:41; Hanson Mnt (delay of game-minor), 5:08; served by Baker Nio (too many men-minor), 6:48; Woogk Mnt (tripping-minor), 13:01.
3rd Period-2, North Iowa, Hartley 2 9:04. 3, Minot, Rice 2 (Fischer, Joseph), 19:03 (EN). Penalties-Knox Mnt (tripping-minor), 12:40.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 6-8-9-23. Minot 8-12-13-33.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 1 / 4; Minot 0 / 5.
Goalies-North Iowa, Chaffe 2-0-0-0 (30 shots-30 saves). Minot, Couture 0-1-0-0 (23 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Holden Kurtz, Eric Steele.