MASON CITY, Iowa – After an 11-2 win over the Willmar WarHawks on Friday night, North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden changed up the lineup card a bit, swapping in a few players who have seen limited time in recent games. The hope was that players who have been regulars on the ice but haven’t been regulars in the scoring column would also step up with a big night.
The Bulls checked both of those boxes in a 14-1 win on Willmar on Saturday, sweeping their four-week homestand and moving to 12-5-0-0 on the season. North Iowa’s eight-game streak with a power play goal did come to an end, but their run of regular-season home wins rose to 14 straight games with Saturday’s victory.
Konnor Carlson (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley H.S.) was the first one to score, putting North Iowa on top just 3:14 into the contest. Marco Escobar (Plainfield, Ill./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede) made it a 2-0 game just before the halfway mark of the first period, weaving through several defenders in the slot and poking the puck through one defender’s legs, all before beating Moritz Ertl along the ice to his left.
The second-period scoring picked right up at the 5:41 mark, with Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) finding a seam between Ertl’s shoulders and the crossbar for a 3-0 lead. Jack Giddings (Anoka, Minn./Anoka H.S.) got his first goal on a one-timer from Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) three minutes later.
Evan Junker (Elk River, Minn./Elk River H.S.) had the main hand in North Iowa’s fifth goal of the night with 6:12 left in the second period, but Giddings managed a deflection in front of the net for his second goal of the night. With the Bulls up 5-0, the WarHawks took advantage of a Zachary Simon (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) penalty with 2:38 to go before the break, scoring just six seconds later on Jacob May’s throw to the net that bounced off of Brandon Holt’s stick and past Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18).
The Bulls would have the last word…nine of them, actually. The first one came before the intermission, just 1:05 after Holt’s goal, with Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) breaking through to make it a 6-1 game.
Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s H.S.) scored back-to-back goals on the same shift, just 12 seconds apart, and just three minutes into the third period, Ertl left the game in favor of Jake Sumner. Carlson added another one on a one-timer moments later, pushing the lead to 9-1 at the five-minute mark of the third.
The final push started with just under seven minutes showing on the third-period clock, on Blackowiak’s second goal of the night, over Sumner’s shoulder for a 10-1 lead. Matt Rozman (Edina, Minn./Edina Jr. Gold) stretched out North Iowa’s first double-digit lead of the night with a goal at 14:33 of the period, and Logan Maki (Newberry, Mich./Sault Ste. Marie H.S.) scored his first junior goal with 4:39 remaining.
The final two were the confirmation goals on Blackowiak and Giddings’s hat tricks, with 2:46 and 1:13 on the clock, respectively. Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) found Giddings for a quick tap-in on the doorstep, while Giddings went to the upper level one final time to cap the scoring for the night.
“I think we found some chemistry,” said Giddings. “We switched up the lines, and everything seemed to go a bit smoother tonight. (Assistant coach Mark) Hicks talked about certain plays that we should be running tonight, getting the puck up high and then back down low looking for a play through the middle of the ice, which is how my third goal went.”
In all, 16 different skaters had points for North Iowa in the game. It’s the first time since December 30 and 31 of last year, against the former Rochester Ice Hawks, that the Bulls have scored double-figures in back-to-back contests.
Giddings finished the night with two assists to go along with his three goals, and the Bulls also got an assist out of Blackowiak. Not to be outdone were Roo and Bowlin, who had four points apiece.
Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) was able to extend his point streak to nine games, thanks to two assists. McDermott and Verstegen are up to seven straight games with a point, and with an assist, Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) moved his run to six straight games.
Perhaps most impressive, though, is Blackowiak’s recent run. He’s scored nine goals over his last three games, as many as the Bulls team has allowed in their last three weeks’ worth of action.
Ertl took the loss, making 28 saves on 36 Bulls chances. Sumner stopped 13 of 19 North Iowa shots in relief, while Skinner closed out the night with 10 saves in picking up his third win of the season. Willmar was the only team to score on the power play, ending a run of 20 straight successful North Iowa penalty kills, and a streak of eight straight games with at least one power play goal.
The Bulls head on the road next week to square off with the Breezy Point North Stars in their final meetings of the regular season. Game times Friday and Saturday are both 7:30 p.m., with live streaming on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns home on Friday, November 23 as they take on the Alexandria Blizzard. It’s “Black Friday” at the North Iowa Ice Arena, with concession and merchandise specials throughout the game. It’s also the Bulls’ Military Appreciation Night, as we give thanks to those who have served our country. For advance tickets to that game or any other Bulls home contest, click here.
Willmar 0 1 0 – 1
North Iowa 2 4 8 – 14
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Carlson 2 (Bowlin, Junker), 3:14. 2, North Iowa, Escobar 8 (Dahlseide, Stewart), 9:53. Penalties-Ertl Wil (tripping-minor), 4:08.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Verstegen 14 (Escobar, Dahlseide), 5:41. 4, North Iowa, Giddings 4 (Bowlin, Bogach), 8:40 (SH). 5, North Iowa, Giddings 5 (Junker, Fagerlee), 13:48. 6, Willmar, Holt 2 (May, Sylvester), 17:27 (PP). 7, North Iowa, Blackowiak 8 (Studioso, McDermott), 18:33. Penalties-VanDeVere Wil (head contact-minor), 5:41; Blackowiak Nio (tripping-minor), 6:40; Simon Nio (slashing-minor), 17:22.
3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Roo 2 (Blackowiak), 2:47. 9, North Iowa, Roo 3 (Stewart, Giddings), 2:59. 10, North Iowa, Carlson 3 (Rozman, Bowlin), 5:00. 11, North Iowa, Blackowiak 9 (Junker, Studioso), 13:02. 12, North Iowa, Rozman 4 (Giddings, Roo), 14:33. 13, North Iowa, Maki 1 (Carlson), 15:21. 14, North Iowa, Blackowiak 10 (McDermott), 17:14 (SH). 15, North Iowa, Giddings 6 (Roo, Bowlin), 18:47. Penalties-Voss Wil (high sticking-minor), 8:09; Verstegen Nio (charging-minor), 15:35; Rollo Wil (checking from behind-minor, checking from behind-10 misc), 19:50.
Shots on Goal-Willmar 5-4-2-11. North Iowa 18-15-22-55.
Power Play Opportunities-Willmar 1 / 3; North Iowa 0 / 3.
Goalies-Willmar, Ertl 0-8-0-0 (36 shots-28 saves); Sumner 0-0-0-0 (19 shots-13 saves). North Iowa, Skinner 4-2-0-0 (11 shots-10 saves).
Linesmen-Aaron Mostrom, Cody Clark.