La CROSSE, Wis. – The North Iowa Bulls have played just four games in the NA3HL regular season, but if they continue the scoring pace they’ve set in those four games, their fans are going to run out of hats to throw on the ice.
Saturday night, it was Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) burying three in the back of the La Crosse net as the Bulls took care of a 9-1 win and a sweep of the Freeze to move to 4-0 on the season.
90 seconds into the game, North Iowa earned its first power play on a Brock Zukowski penalty for slashing, and Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) buried his team’s second shot of the night for the early 1-0 lead. Just over the halfway mark of the first period, Bump got to work with an unassisted tally to double the North Iowa advantage.
After Bump’s goal at 10:40 of the opening stanza, the next three minutes were a blur – Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./Oshkosh H.S.), Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) and Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) all racked up goals and chased Jacob Silberstein from the Freeze net just 13:35 into the game.
The Bulls took a 5-0 lead into the second period, but it would take another 12-plus minutes and an extra man on the ice for the Freeze to respond. Cameron Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) was whistled for a slashing infraction at 12:06 of the period, setting up a brief La Crosse power play. Matthew Francois notched the home team’s first goal just 21 seconds into the man-advantage to trim the lead to 5-1.
Again, the Bulls were up for a surge – just a night after burying a natural hat trick of his own, Dominic Skrelja (South Lyon, Mich./Honeybaked U18) opened a late-second-period barrage with a goal at 14:22 of the period. Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) earned one of his own three minutes later, and Bump pumped in his second goal with 29.3 seconds showing on the Green Island Ice Arena clock.
After the first 40 minutes, the final period was a relatively uneventful one – three power play chances went unconverted, and there was only one goal to speak of. The singular goal of the period was a momentous one, though, as Bump earned his third and final goal of the night to seal the Bulls’ third hat trick of the season.
Silberstein left the game before the end of the first period, but after taking the loss Friday night, Will Graves had plenty of work to catch up on – North Iowa stacked up 47 shots for the night against just 20 for La Crosse, and Graves was saddled with four goals allowed on 30 shots. The Bulls tossed a 21-4 shots advantage on the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes alone. Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) earned his second win on the young season, stopping 19 of the hosts’ 20 shots.
North Iowa has outscored its opponents by a 28-8 margin over the first four games of the season, a scoring output that ranks only slightly behind their hot starts in 2015 (30 goals) and 2013 (29 goals). They’ll need more of that offensive magic next weekend, when they make their longest trip of the year to Fraser, Michigan to face off against the two-time defending Silver Cup runner-up Metro Jets. The opening faceoffs Saturday and Sunday at Fraser Hockeyland are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and 11:45 a.m., respectively. Live coverage of both games is available on HockeyTV.