The North Iowa Bulls had an opportunity to pull within a point of Granite City for the NA3HL West Division lead on Saturday at the North Iowa Ice Arena.
The Bulls were less than a minute away from doing exactly that and staying unbeaten on their home ice before the Lumberjacks (15-3-0-0, 30 points) scored with an extra attacker with 21.9 seconds remaining in regulation before defeating North Iowa 4-3 in a shootout.
“That was a championship effort by our guys right there,” North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said. “We gave ourselves every opportunity to win the game but unfortunately they got a crazy hop off the glass where I don’t even think the guy got his stick on it. I think it hit him in the shin and went in the net. How do you get a tying goal like that? It was just a crazy hockey play, I guess.”
After receiving 12 points from the line of Eric Behrend, Patrick Sivets and Tony Paulson in Friday’s 8-4 victory over the Twin City Steel, the Bulls (12-2-1-1, 26 points) received another strong performance from that line on Saturday.
“That line just got tossed together this week due to injuries,” Sanden said. “I think it can be a very productive line.”
Behrend got North Iowa on the board with 1 minute, 49 seconds left in the first period with assists from Paulson and Ron Lindgren after the Lumberjacks went in front 2:11 earlier on a power-play goal from D.J. Vold.
It turned out Behrend’s goal was just what the Bulls’ offense needed to get started.
North Iowa received a breakaway goal from James Hughes on a pass from Tyler Richison following a Granite City shot attempt at North Iowa goaltender Matt Bartels 2:03 into the second period while Patrick Sivets added a goal just over four minutes later on assists from Paulson and Matthew Kaitchuck to put the Bulls in front 3-1 with 13:53 left in the period.
However, the Lumberjacks wouldn’t go away quietly as Nathan Kohlenhoefer cut the deficit in half less than a minute later before Bartels shut the door the rest of the way for the Bulls — until that fluke goal by Zac Sikich tied the game.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Ontario, Calif., native recorded 33 saves — including eight in the final period despite the Bulls holding the Lumberjacks without a shot on goal for the first 8:21 of the period.
“Bartels didn’t deserve what he got with that puck off the glass,” Sanden said. “He was strong, our defensemen were strong and our forwards did a nice job getting the puck into their zone. It comes down to we have to win those 4-3, 3-2, 2-1 games against Granite City.”
North Iowa returns to action on Friday when the Bulls travel to face the Minnesota Flying Aces.
“We’re in a good position,” Sanden said. “Quite honestly, we have to lose some games to find out where you’re at. If you’re going to lose, lose to a good team and then learn from that loss. We’ll be ready to play Friday.”
-Courtesy of Globe Gazette