MASON CITY, Iowa – When Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) scored his third goal of the game Friday night, the hats were slow to come onto the ice. Then, finally, one lonely hat made its way onto the North Iowa Ice Arena rink. Finally, a few more trickled out of the stands.
The scoring, though, was much more of a flood, with McDermott’s third goal capping a three-goal run early in the third period of a 4-3 contest. North Iowa remains in control of its destiny heading into the final game of the NA3HL regular season, needing just one point to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round of the West Division playoffs.
McDermott scored the opening goal just 47 seconds into the contest, tapping one in from the doorstep, to the right of Jaden Gardner.
“It gets everybody going and gets the crowd into it early on,” said McDermott. “Scoring on the first shift of the game always feels good, and it’s a good energy boost for the guys and it helps the self-confidence too.”
Peoria got one back in odd fashion, though – Tristan Trudel scored his 25th goal of the season from in front of the penalty boxes, heaving one toward the net with a line change ready to go behind him. Instead, Trudel’s shot snuck over the left shoulder of Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) and above the glove to tie the game at 1-1 just 4:16 in.
Peoria briefly took the lead at the 16-minute mark of the game, with Zach Eddington ripping one toward the net from the right point. The puck sailed through traffic in front of the net, but never changed direction before beating Babekul for a 2-1 lead.
The lead lasted all of 20 seconds – Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./Milwaukee Jr. Admirals U18) fired a right-wing shot that mirrored Eddington’s previous try, but the long rebound kicked out front for McDermott to put away for the tying goal.
Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) set up the go-ahead goal with 18 seconds left in the first period off of a faceoff to Gardner’s right. Dahlseide won the draw and gathered the puck before falling to one knee and passing it toward the net for Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) to tap in for the lead.
The second period was an uneventful 20 minutes, save for a few penalties. McDermott’s third goal at 4:02 of the final period brought the crowd to life, scoring off of another rebound on a shot from Joey Petronack (White Bear Lake, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) for a 4-2 lead.
A stretch pass from Trudel hit Austin Keil coming through the neutral zone just over halfway through the final period, though, and Keil raced it in up the right wing to cut the lead to 4-3 with 10:49 to go. The Mustangs were not able to score again despite playing 6-on-5 for the final 88 seconds of the game, with several shots on goal in the final push.
Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) picked up the win in relief of Babekuhl, making 14 saves on 15 tries. Babekuhl stopped six of eight before exiting the game with four minutes left in the first period.
“That’s a fast team,” said Skinner. “They play similar to what we do, just a run-and-gun game. They try to get it deep and try to get it on net. They threw a lot of things on net (tonight).”
Gardner made 24 saves on 28 North Iowa chances, dropping to 18-7-2-1 for the year. Skinner moved his record to 17-6-2-0 with the win. The Bulls gave him an extra lift with a power play tally on McDermott’s final goal, with North Iowa going 1-for-6 on the man-advantage. Peoria was not able to convert on either of its two power play chances.
North Iowa’s situation is simple – any point, through a win or an overtime contest, gives them the second-place position in the final West Division standings. As for Peoria, the Mustangs are all but out of the race for third in the Central Division, two points behind Milwaukee. The Power have a game in hand, and are far above Peoria in terms of regulation wins this year.
The Bulls and Mustangs return to the North Iowa Ice Arena for one final get-together Saturday night, with the opening puck drop set for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage of Saturday’s game is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Saturday’s game also winds down Superhero Weekend sponsored by Cent Credit Union, with North Iowa’s specialty jerseys to be auctioned off following the contest. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Peoria 2 0 1 – 3
North Iowa 3 0 1 – 4
1st Period-1, North Iowa, McDermott 19 (Studioso, Blackowiak), 0:47. 2, Peoria, Trudel 25 4:16. 3, Peoria, Eddington 6 (Bland, Hay), 16:00. 4, North Iowa, McDermott 20 (Stewart, Petronack), 16:20. 5, North Iowa, Bowlin 5 (Dahlseide), 19:42. Penalties-Eddington Peo (interference-minor), 6:40; Fagerlee Nio (hooking-minor), 7:12.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Hay Peo (holding-minor), 6:19; Ulrich Peo (high sticking-minor), 6:28; Verstegen Nio (boarding-minor), 17:32.
3rd Period-6, North Iowa, McDermott 21 (Petronack, Wagner), 4:02 (PP). 7, Peoria, Keil 30 (Trudel), 10:49. Penalties-Bland Peo (holding-minor), 4:02; Wisely Peo (tripping-minor), 14:11; Gardner Peo (slashing-minor), 15:31.
Shots on Goal-Peoria 9-8-6-23. North Iowa 14-4-13-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Peoria 0 / 2; North Iowa 1 / 6.
Goalies-Peoria, Gardner 18-7-2-1 (31 shots-27 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 7-5-1-0 (8 shots-6 saves); Skinner 17-6-2-0 (15 shots-14 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Zach Carson.