MASON CITY, Iowa – Last season’s North Iowa Bulls team defeated the Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep team from Faribault, Minnesota, but never got to find out if it could go the championship route of previous Bulls teams that knocked off the Sabres.
Perhaps this season, North Iowa will get a second crack at history.
The Bulls used two goals, including a late carom off of Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears), to get past Shattuck-St. Mary’s 4-3 on Wednesday night, giving North Iowa its fourth win over one of the nation’s top prep hockey programs. 85 former Sabres have been taken in the National Hockey League draft, and 34 are currently on pro hockey rosters across the world.
Jones got the initial goal at the 12:39 mark of the first period, crashing the net and avoiding Austin Zavoda just long enough to put the puck over the line for the 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, a left-point wrister from Caleb Huffman (Anchorage, Alaska/Meijer AAA) snuck through the traffic and beat Zavoda on his right side, doubling the lead with 5:45 on the first-period clock.
The final minute of the first period was good to both sides. With 51 seconds remaining, a shot from Scott Morrow at the top of the zone bounced out front for David Nesburg, who rolled in the rebound to trim the lead to 2-1. Just 22 seconds later, a shot on the run from Hayden Fox (Anchorage, Alaska/Team Alaska U18) was kicked out front for Nick Mohs-Messerli (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) at the other end, who stuffed it in to restore the two-goal lead going to the second period.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s eliminated that lead in short order in the middle period, cutting the lead to 3-2 less than seven minutes in. Morrow drew Caleb Mayer (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North H.S.) to his right and skipped over Colby Browne in front of the net in favor of David Tolan on the right wing, passing the puck to Tolan to bat home the one-timer.
The game officially reset with 6:23 to go in the second period, on a setup pass from Dana Wallace below the goal line that found Charlie Lurie out front for a one-timer from the slot. That shot beat Mayer over his shoulder and squared the contest at 3-3.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s started the third period on the power play and with a 40-13 shots-on-goal advantage, but the Sabres could not convert on their man-advantage, nor could the Bulls on a lengthy 5-on-3 chance. Instead, the game would turn on another blue-line toss from Huffman with 5:50 to go, which bounced off of Jones just inside the left-wing faceoff circle and bounced once more before bounding past Zavoda for the go-ahead goal.
Mayer finished the night with an incredible 47 saves, picking up the unofficial win, while Zavoda took the loss on a 20-save performance to fall to 11-2. Morrow led the Sabres offense with two assists, while Huffman wrapped up the night with a goal and assist in addition to Jones’s two tallies. Both teams wrapped up 0-for-3 on the power play.
“They’re always a fast team with a lot of skilled guys,” said Jones. “We were able to play our game and hold them to our standards, slow them down and force them to play the game that we want instead of letting them dictate the pace.”
Next Wednesday, North Iowa will attempt to do what it has never done in five attempts, and defeat the Sabres on their home ice in Faribault, Minnesota. Shattuck-St. Mary’s remains unbeaten at home as the month of January draws to a close.
Before that, however, the Bulls return to regular-season league play on Friday night as the New Ulm Steel head to Mason City. The two teams met on November 21 in the West Division’s final game before Minnesota’s eight-week COVID sports shutdown. The Bulls will host their “Room and Boarding” promotion, with admission cut to just $6 for college students with a valid ID, and craft draws discounted to $3. The opening puck drop at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena on Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
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 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.