MASON CITY, Iowa – Forget multi-goal games. Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) has never posted a multi-goal season with the Bulls. In 115 games in a North Iowa uniform, the team’s captain has just two goals.
Those were the facts heading into Saturday’s game against the Rochester Ice Hawks. Those facts changed rapidly in the third period, as Bernhardson tallied a natural hat trick to highlight a 16-0 win. North Iowa heads to the final day of 2017 with a dozen straight wins, and 30 games in a row with at least a point in the standings.
“[Shane] has the ability to score, but he’s such an unselfish player,” said North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden. “He looks to dish and help other guys score. It’s certainly exciting for your captain, who’s an amazing leader of this group of great young men, to have some individual success tonight.”
Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./Austin Bruins) got the New Year’s bash started just 3:07 into the game, dragging the puck across the mouth of the goal to tuck it in past Jake Levinski for the opening goal. The Bulls caught their visitors on a line change with Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at the 9:31 mark, with Dolter sliding one in under Levinski for a 2-0 lead.
A top-shelf one-timer by Isaac Baron (Burnsville, Minn./Academy of Holy Angels) added onto the lead at 13:09, but back-to-back goals from Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) and Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) pushed the margin to five heading to the second period.
Blackowiak buried a one-timer of his own 62 seconds into the second period for a 6-0 lead, followed by goals from Tyler Bump and Connor Clemons just 10 seconds apart, and the lead jumped to 8-0 barely three minutes into the second period.
Cameron Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) celebrated his tender agreement with the Aberdeen Wings with a goal of his own at the 7:06 mark, and Blackowiak finished off the night’s first hat trick at 9:01 with a two-man rush up the ice on a return pass from Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./Alexandria Blizzard).
Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) finished a 3-on-1 rush with his first goal of the night with 6:07 remaining in the second period, as the lead jumped to 11-0. The margin hit a dozen thanks to Dahlseide, who tossed one past Levinski with 4:21 remaining before the break.
Then, things got interesting.
Bernhardson notched his first of the season, the second-to-last active Bulls player to tally a goal, on a face-and-fire shot just over three minutes into the third period. 48 seconds later, he got another one to stretch the lead to 14-0. The improbable third goal became a reality on a short-distance shot at the 8:02 mark, and the lead went to 15-0.
North Iowa wasn’t done yet – a long pass up the right wing from Brandon Caudill (Lindstrom, Minn./Chisago Lakes H.S.) caught Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at the Ice Hawks blue line. The second-year defenseman was able to score from his stomach with 3:25 left despite being pulled down from behind in front of the Rochester net for the evening’s final goal.
Only one Bulls skater was left without a point in the game, and even he got into the mix. Ivan Bogach (Brooklyn, N.Y./Shattuck-St. Mary’s U18) rang one off the top half of the crossbar and out of play in the game’s final minutes, leaving the hosts just a man short of running the table in the scoring department.
“The thing I really enjoyed about this game was the sportsmanship,” said Sanden. “Rochester is undermanned right now, and we’re very deep. They played as hard as they could, and their goaltender stayed in the entire game. I thought their guys were awesome, and our guys weren’t chirping or any stuff like that. They have good kids there and they are working hard.”
Chris Blaisius’s team certainly made a few of its own waves, posting 17 shots in the final 20 minutes, including one that pinged off the crossbar behind Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) before taking an odd bounce off the goal line and skipping away from the net. Cain would make 30 stops for his third shutout in four tries.
The 16-goal win was the second-highest scoring output on home ice in North Iowa’s Tier III history, bested only by their 17-0 win against the Ice Hawks three weeks ago. The Bulls put 55 shots on net, but never tallied a special-teams goal on either side of a man-advantage.
With the final home game of 2017 out of the way, the Bulls travel to Rochester Sunday evening for a 7:05 p.m. faceoff to cap off the calendar year. Sunday’s game will be live-streamed on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr. Austin Draude will have the call with a 6:50 p.m. warmup show.
North Iowa returns to the home ice on Saturday, Jan. 13, for “Superhero Night” against the La Crosse Freeze at the North Iowa Ice Arena. For advance tickets to that game, or any future Bulls home game, click here.