MASON CITY, Iowa – Tucker Kruse (Woodbury, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) came into the weekend with six North Iowa games under his belt, but no goals.
Not only did that change on Friday night, but Kruse’s first junior goal went down as the game-winner.
Kruse tallied his first Bulls goal at the 4:54 mark of the second period to give North Iowa a 3-0 lead on the way to a 6-2 win over Alexandria, beating the Blizzard in the teams’ first meeting in almost two full years.
“We were up here in the office after the game talking about how every line contributed,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “To have our fourth line get the game-winner and a guy like Tuck, who’s in and out of the lineup, that’s pretty dramatic. He made a great shot, beating Brady (Meyers) over the shoulder.”
North Iowa got things started with Bryceton Butkiewicz‘s (Kettle River, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness) one-timer goal from the edge of the slot halfway through the first period, lining up the game’s first goal on a pass from Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./Oshkosh H.S.). Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) banged in a goal on Connor Clemons‘s (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) pass to the doorstep with just 11 seconds remaining in the period, sending North Iowa to a 2-0 lead heading to the second intermission.
Kruse made his mark just under five minutes into the middle period of the game, and Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) beat the former Bulls netminder top-shelf at 8:08 of the second period to chase Jon Crouse’s starting goalie from the game.
Already up 4-0, Clemons re-directed Ryan Kranz‘s (Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial H.S.) long heave from the point into the net at the 10:36 mark of the second period, pushing the lead to 5-0 heading to the second intermission.
“Through 40 minutes, I thought we were a pretty dominant team,” said Sanden. “Even in the third, I thought we carried it – in our own zone, we got a little sloppy with a couple of rebound goals. We were hoping [Colin] Cain would end up with the zero on his side, but all in all, it was a great effort by our guys.”
A slashing minor to Branden Payne set up Clemons’s second goal of the night, sending the lead to 6-0 at 10:12 of the final period. The shutout was not to be, though – Jack Westlund and Josiah Roen pounded in back-to-back goals in the final 8:39 to trim the final margin to 6-2.
The Bulls have earned points in 15 straight games, and push their winning streak to five straight heading into Saturday’s rematch with the Blizzard. Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) didn’t manage his first shutout with the Bulls, but did make 28 saves on 30 shots to earn his eighth win of the season. Meyers took the loss in his first game back in the “Barn,” making just 15 saves on 19 North Iowa shots.
Saturday’s game continues the Bulls’ “No-Shave November” kick-off, and will also feature an intermission scrimmage among the North Iowa Jr. Bulls mites team. Tune in to Saturday’s game on HockeyTV for live video streaming, or to Mixlr for free audio streaming. For tickets to Friday’s game or future Bulls home games, click here.