MASON CITY, Iowa – Saturday night’s game against the La Crosse Freeze involved plenty of firsts for the North Iowa Bulls. In their seventh season, though, they weren’t the firsts North Iowa was hoping for.
La Crosse won its first game in franchise history on North Iowa’s home ice, and handed the Bulls their first-ever shutout loss on home ice, as North Iowa fell 2-0. It was also North Iowa’s first regulation loss of the season, snapping a 34-game point streak dating back to pool play at last year’s Silver Cup national championship tournament.
The first goal came early for the Freeze – Nathan McComb put away a goal with a crowd in front of the net just 6:34 into the game. North Iowa put 13 shots on net in the opening period, and 10 more in the second period, but La Crosse continued to cling to its 1-0 lead.
After Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) left the ice for an extra attacker in the game’s final minutes, Clayton Lackey heaved one into the empty net from North Iowa’s blue line to seal the win with 35 seconds remaining. La Crosse posted 19 shots in the game, with the last of those shots spelling the end of the Bulls’ push for a tying goal.
There were plenty of missed opportunities in the game for Todd Sanden’s team. Incomplete passes, blocked shots, backdoor passes that were interrupted and cleared down the ice, and top-shelf breakaway shots that missed the goal and clanked off the glass all combined to create the perfect storm in the visitors’ favor. One shot at the end of the second period from Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./Alexandria Blizzard) even rang off the crossbar before ricocheting away from the cage.
North Iowa also wasn’t able to capitalize on a lengthy man-advantage that straddled the first intermission. Clayton Lackey’s slashing minor put the Bulls up a man with 1:29 remaining in the opening period, and La Crosse would lose a second man less than a minute later.
An errant Matthew Francois stick that caught Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls high, drawing blood and sending the Bulls captain to the bench for treatment. In all, North Iowa spent almost five full minutes up at least one man, but was never able to put away a shot to tie the game and bring the crowd of 936 fans to its feet.
“I thought their goalie was the best player in the building tonight,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “They played with pace and they got a break early, and we just floundered in the offensive zone. We couldn’t connect to execute and get pucks behind their goalie. I thought we worked hard, we just need to execute better.”
Cain ended the night with 17 saves on 18 La Crosse chances. Will Graves blocked all 32 shots against him, scoring his second shutout of his career against North Iowa. The Bulls will be busy this coming week, playing two games at the Wisconsin Whalers before hosting the Wausau RiverWolves on Saturday. The opening faceoff against Wausau is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
Next week’s game against the RiverWolves is College Night with the Bulls, with free frosty mugs for the first 100 fans in the door. Admission for college students is just $5 with a valid college ID. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game, or any future Bulls home game, click here.