MASON CITY, Iowa – One of the greatest things about attending a live sporting event is that on any given night, you may see something you’ve never seen before.
The North Iowa Bulls did something they’ve only done twice before in their history, landing in a shootout on back-to-back nights. Friday night’s game went the Bulls’ way in a 4-3 final, but Saturday night, the Granite City Lumberjacks struck back for a 3-2 victory. It’s the first time since the 2012-13 season that North Iowa has gone to the skills contest in back-to-back outings.
Carson Jones’s (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) shot from the left-wing goal line started a round of four shots at the Granite City net for the hosts, with everybody on the forward line getting at least a touch. Jones put away the fourth and final touch at the 7:04 mark of the first period, giving North Iowa the 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, Granite City tied it on a shot from Troy Dahlheimer just inside the right-wing faceoff circle, off of a play from Hanson O’Leary below the goal line.
The Bulls missed on both of their power play chances in the second period, but textbook passing in the offensive zone set up their next go-ahead tally at 8:06 of the second. Kyle Heffron’s (Rosemount, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) pass from the right point caught Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Armstrong-Cooper H.S.) on the left wing, and he found Caden Smith (Lakeville, Minn./Janesville Jets) on the back door for the one-timer and the 2-1 North Iowa advantage.
That advantage lasted all of eight seconds, thanks to Brockston Masseth’s top-shelf goal to the back post from the bottom of the left-wing circle with 11:46 left in the period.
North Iowa took a 9-6 shots-on-goal advantage in the third period, but never put one on the net in the overtime, and neither side was able to put one away in the second half of regulation.
After an empty first round of the shootout, Braeden Bartoo went back to his move that beat Max Gutjahr (Appleton, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) on Friday, pushing the puck to his backhand and dangling it in between Evan Babekuhl’s (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) left skate and the post. Smith wrapped up the shootout’s third round by beating Bailey Huber low to extend the game a moment longer, but Zach Kilen beat Babekuhl in the fifth round for the deciding tally.
“It’s a tough loss, especially for the fans here at home,” said Newpower. “It’s not fun to let them down here, but we’ve got to have a short memory and get right back at it tomorrow.”
Babekuhl came up just short of his 36th career victory for North Iowa, making 22 saves to snap a 10-game winning streak. One night after taking the shootout loss, Huber made 27 stops to push his win total into double-figures.
Saturday’s game marked the first shootout loss for the Bulls since January 5, 2018, a 4-3 defeat for Alexandria on the Blizzard’s home ice. The loss also wrapped up a four-game winning streak for North Iowa against Granite City, one shy of their longest head-to-head run since December of 2015.
The Bulls fall to 22-6-1-1 with the loss, while Granite City rises to 16-8-0-1. The two teams head their separate ways on Sunday, with both teams set to head on the road to cap off the weekend. North Iowa travels to New Ulm for a 2 p.m. battle against the Steel, while the Lumberjacks shift to Willmar for an evening showdown against the WarHawks. Live streaming coverage of the Bulls’ game against the Steel is available on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns to home ice on Thursday night for a makeup contest against the WarHawks, with the opening puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
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.
Granite City 1 1 0 0 – 3
North Iowa 1 1 0 0 – 2
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Jones 16 (Jorgenson, Newpower), 7:05. 2, Granite City, Dahlheimer 5 (Bartoo, Prifrel), 14:12. Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Smith 8 (Campion, Heffron), 8:05. 4, Granite City, Masseth 7 (Dias, Reed), 8:15. Penalties-Masseth Gcy (interference-minor), 8:51; Prifrel Gcy (kneeing-minor), 11:58; Collins Nio (head contact-minor), 16:30.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Daikawa Gcy (roughing-minor), 1:34; Nauss Nio (roughing-minor), 1:34.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Granite City 2 (Simon NG, Bartoo G, Halliday NG, O’Leary NG, Kilen G), North Iowa 1 (Newpower NG, Jorgenson NG, Smith G, Campion NG, Isogai NG).
Shots on Goal-Granite City 7-8-6-3-1-25. North Iowa 12-8-9-0-0-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Granite City 0 / 1; North Iowa 0 / 2.
Goalies-Granite City, Huber 10-3-0-1 (29 shots-27 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 12-2-0-1 (24 shots-22 saves).
Linesmen-Quentin Gabriel, Ethan Fox.