NEW ULM, Minn. – Sometimes you don’t win games by what you do, but what you keep your opponent from doing.
In Friday night’s NA3HL tilt, the New Ulm Steel got sticks in the passing lane, blocked shots, frustrated the North Iowa Bulls on backdoor chances, and turned away almost all of the Bulls’ 33 shots on goal in a 4-2 victory at the New Ulm Civic Center. The win snaps a seven-game home losing skid dating back to last season.
While his teammates handled the bulk of the defensive workload, Griffin Foster was up to the task with 31 saves, earning his second win of the season and first ever against North Iowa. The Jerome, Michigan native faced the Bulls four times last season as a backstop for the Breezy Point North Stars, and took the loss in each of those decisions.
New Ulm grabbed control of the game early, with Zach Maillette grabbing control of a rebound off of a shot down the slot and stuffing home the rebound just 4:40 into the contest.
The Bulls weren’t able to convert on any of their 15 first-period chances, but finally broke onto the scoreboard 7:56 into the second, with Kyle Heffron (Rosemount, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) snapping one into the net on Foster’s glove side to tie the game at 1-1.
That tie was short-lived, though, thanks to Maillette’s second goal of the game, snapping one past Caleb Mayer (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North H.S.) from the edge of the slot less than two minutes later to take the lead back for the Steel.
Barely a minute-and-a-half later, the lead went to two goals, thanks in part to Hutson Collins’s pass into the North Iowa zone – that pass caught Ethan McDonald, who beat Lucas Bellig (Danville, Calif./Golden State U18) with a nifty move to his backhand and then beat Mayer by lifting the puck into the top corner of the cage.
McDonald’s first goal as a member of the Steel would prove to be far more important than he realized, as the Bulls trimmed the lead to 3-2 with 5:42 remaining. Carson Jones (Eden Prairie, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) took a pass at the edge of the slot, a mere step from where Maillette’s second goal had come from, and pinged it past Foster off the inside post to shrink the lead to just a goal.
“Our line was chatting before we went out there,” said Jones. “We knew we needed to get one before the five-minute mark, and we had some good puck movement down low in the zone. It sucked their team down low, and we got it up high and got a shot to the net and a rebound. I was in the right spot at the right time.”
North Iowa put up a furious push in the final minutes, pulling Mayer with two minutes remaining in the contest. The Bulls were not able to convert on several close chances, though, and James Spaargaren let fly with a 140-foot heave from the top of the slot with 13.1 seconds to play, hitting the empty net to give New Ulm its first home win on the 2020-21 schedule.
Spaargaren added an assist to his haul, while Collins and Jacob Zowin posted a pair of assists apiece. Mayer made 23 saves, taking the loss in his North Iowa debut.
“They were fast and they came out ready to play,” said Jones. “We were fast too, but they had a little better start. It’s always hard to play from behind, and we almost had a couple (chances) with the goalie pulled, but the bounces just didn’t go our way. We’re going to have to work really hard in practice and get two wins next weekend.”
The Bulls fell to 9-3 with the loss, ending a four-game winning streak, while New Ulm rose to 2-7-1 with the victory. The two teams are set for two more games against each other next weekend, when the Steel head to Mason City for a Friday-Saturday set at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena. The opening puck drop each night is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Friday’s game is North Iowa’s “Thankful For Hockey” promotion, featuring turkey bowling during the first intermission and a food and coat drive throughout the week leading up to the game. Saturday’s “Bucks and Pucks” promotion features limited edition freebies and merchandise from game sponsor Fleet Farm, as well as Bulls flex tickets for a wild game donation. To view the Bulls’ upcoming promotional schedule, click here.
Advance tickets to North Iowa Bulls home games and updated news and information on the 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.
North Iowa 0 1 1 – 2
New Ulm 1 2 1 – 4
1st Period-1, New Ulm, Maillette 3 (Zowin, Spaargaren), 4:40. Penalties-Maillette Num (hooking-minor), 9:36; Eha Nio (cross checking-minor), 19:35.
2nd Period-2, North Iowa, Heffron 2 (Jones, Campion), 7:56. 3, New Ulm, Maillette 4 (Dorn, Zowin), 9:46. 4, New Ulm, Mcdonald 1 (Collins, Lawrence), 11:20. Penalties-Dorn Num (equipment violation-minor), 15:16.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Jones 2 (Bellig, Campion), 14:18. 6, New Ulm, Spaargaren 5 19:47 (EN). Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 15-12-6-33. New Ulm 10-12-5-27.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 2; New Ulm 0 / 1.
Goalies-North Iowa, Mayer 0-1-0-0 (26 shots-23 saves). New Ulm, Foster 2-2-0-0 (33 shots-31 saves).
Linesmen-Jake Caneff, Evan Davis.