WILLMAR, Minn. – After taking losses in four of their last five games, North Iowa was looking for a spark to get them back on track with a weekend road trip to face the Willmar WarHawks.
They may have found it, after Saturday’s game quickly caught fire in a physical battle that went to the Bulls by a 3-1 count. North Iowa now finds itself within a single point of home-ice advantage in the first round of the Fraser Cup playoffs – any Bulls win or Willmar loss the rest of the way will give North Iowa a top-two finish in the division for the 10th straight year.
The Bulls got their chances on the man-advantage in the first period, earning three looks at a power play goal in the opening 20 minutes. The third time was the charm, following an interference call against C.J. Zins. Just 12 seconds into the power play, a pass from Lucas Jorgenson (Orono, Minn./Holy Family H.S.) found Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at the top of the slot, and he pinged one in off the inside of the stick-side post with just 3:47 left in the first period.
North Iowa was tasked with defending that lead through the second period, and nearly succeeded. Lewis Rowan’s shot from the right-wing faceoff dot bounced off of Carsen Stokes’s (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness) left-leg pad and bounced back to the goal line before being swept away from the Bulls’ net. However, the red light briefly went on, and after a momentary discussion with the goal judge at the next whistle, the goal stood with 5:25 remaining for a 1-1 tie.
The pace and physicality picked up again heading to the third period, but Jorgenson put North Iowa back in the lead as a power play expired with 9:10 remaining, firing one over Lukas Haugen’s right shoulder for a 2-1 lead.
Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) swept one into the empty net with 2.5 seconds to go to ice the game, touching off a skirmish along the half-boards that saw Nick Mohs-Messerli (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) and Isaiah Thomas exit the ice a few seconds before the final horn.
The game was a momentous one for Stokes, who made 27 saves for his first junior victory. North Iowa gave Haugen plenty of work in the loss, making 34 saves to fall back to 4-5 for the season. The Bulls ended the night at 2-for-7 on the power play, while Willmar finished 0-for-2.
“It’s been nice to finally get an opportunity (in Mason City),” said Stokes, who did not make an appearance with the Wilderness prior to joining the Bulls. “That’s all you can ask for as a goalie is playing time, and it’s nice to finally get into the net. It’s been going pretty well, finding a rhythm.”
The recent meetings between these two teams have been about as close as they come, with none of the last five meetings decided by more than two goals.
North Iowa heads into Sunday’s rematch at 23-8-1-1 for the season, while the WarHawks fell back to .500 at 16-16. A 7:10 p.m. puck drop is scheduled as the teams wind down their regular-season series, and will be the final meeting between the Bulls and WarHawks barring a meeting in next month’s Fraser Cup West Division playoffs. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns home March 19 and 20 for a jersey auction weekend to benefit Autism Speaks, with the auction to be conducted online the week of the game through DASH Auction. To purchase tickets for these games, click here.
Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls’ 10th Anniversary season are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 1 0 2 – 3
Willmar 0 1 0 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Nauss 9 (Jorgenson, Jones), 16:13 (PP). Penalties-Mock Wil (cross checking-minor), 1:56; Jones Nio (roughing-minor), 3:21; Light Wil (roughing-minor), 3:21; Luedtke Wil (cross checking-minor), 9:46; Zins Wil (interference-minor), 16:01.
2nd Period-2, Willmar, Rowan 12 14:35. Penalties-Sullivan Nio (boarding-minor), 6:24; Miller Wil (slashing-minor), 11:55; Triemert Nio (fighting-major), 14:47; Light Wil (roughing-minor), 16:50.
3rd Period-3, North Iowa, Jorgenson 7 (Nauss, Newpower), 10:50 (PP). 4, North Iowa, Newpower 10 (Jones, Jorgenson), 19:55 (EN). Penalties-Konkel Wil (high sticking-minor), 3:59; Bjorge Wil (slashing-minor), 9:04; Miller Wil (interference-minor), 15:33; Mohs-Messerli Nio (roughing-double minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 19:59; Thomas Wil (roughing-double minor, continuing altercation-10 misc), 19:59.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 20-5-12-37. Willmar 10-13-5-28.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 2 / 7; Willmar 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Stokes 1-2-0-0 (28 shots-27 saves). Willmar, Haugen 4-5-0-0 (36 shots-34 saves).
Linesmen-Michael Hughes, Bay Zuehlke.