McNeil Stands Alone With Two Goals in 8-2 Win


MASON CITY, Iowa – In the first period, try as they might, the North Iowa Bulls simply couldn’t grab a lead from the Rochester Grizzlies.

After scoring back-to-back goals just 13 seconds apart in the second period, though, the Bulls simply never looked back.

North Iowa ended the night with seven unanswered goals, including a couple of quick pairs in that middle stanza, on the way to an 8-2 victory over the Grizzlies on Friday night at the North Iowa Ice Arena. The Bulls moved to 13-2-1-0 with the win, while Rochester slipped to 11-4 with the loss.

Peyton Hart got the Grizzlies off to a quick start with a rebound goal just 39 seconds into the contest, but the Bulls battled back with a goal of their own at the 11:01 mark behind a top-shelf tally from Jackson Vercellono (Laconia, N.H./St. Cloud Blizzard).

Cam Fagerlee’s (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) check against Lucas McKinch in the corner with 3:56 left in the first period led to a five-minute Rochester power play, and it didn’t take long for the Grizzlies to take advantage – a shot from Noel Parker at the left point with 2:53 on the clock dribbled up in the air off of Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), and the Bulls’ attempts to bat the puck away from the net ended up having the opposite effect.

The momentum push the Bulls needed came just past the four-minute mark of the second period – Nico Aguilera (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South H.S.) threw on the extra move to the left of Grizzlies goalie Shane Soderwall, slipping the puck past him at 4:27 of the period for the tying goal. Just 13 seconds later, Austin McNeil (Shakopee, Minn./Shakopee H.S.) found the puck free on a rebound to Soderwall’s right and tossed it into the net for the go-ahead goal.

The second wave took just nine seconds – at 8:52 of the period, Vercellono set a pass to Mason Enright (Farmington, Minn./Farmington H.S.) coming up the left wing, and Enright snapped it past Soderwall to run the lead to 4-2. At the 9:01 mark, Nick Bowlin (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) snapped one into the top corner over Soderwall’s left shoulder to push the lead to three goals.

A pair of goals from the Bulls’ top goal scorers added further to the lead in the third period. Fagerlee led the rush up the right wing and fired a stick-side wrist shot past Soderwall to make it a 6-2 game at 9:34 of the final period. Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) kept pace in the race for the team scoring lead with a back-post goal of his own at 11:26 of the period for the 7-2 lead.

A stretch pass through neutral ice allowed McNeil to pick up his second goal, dragging the puck across the mouth of the net and popping it in underneath the crossbar with just 1:15 remaining to cap the scoring.

Vercellono’s goal was his first as a Bull after beginning the season in the North American Hockey League with the St. Cloud Blizzard, while McNeil’s multi-goal night was his first at the junior level. Aguilera had the biggest night of all, though, tacking two assists onto his second-period marker.

Babekuhl made 20 saves to earn his fourth win of the season, while Soderwall suffered his first junior loss after winning his first five in a row.

North Iowa returns to the home ice on Saturday night to face the Willmar WarHawks, after their shootout win over the Alexandria Blizzard. The Bulls will continue their Throwback Weekend, with a ceremony at the first intermission to recognize the billet families of the former North Iowa Huskies franchise, which played in the United States Hockey League from 1983 to 1999. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.

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Rochester 2 0 0 – 2
North Iowa 1 4 3 – 8

1st Period-1, Rochester, Hart 6 (DeRosa, Smith), 0:39. 2, North Iowa, Vercellono 1 (Enright), 11:01. 3, Rochester, Parker 1 (Hart, DeRosa), 17:07 (PP). Penalties-McKinch Roc (hooking-minor), 4:15; Cichosz Nio (checking from behind-minor), 13:19; Fagerlee Nio (boarding-major), 16:04.

2nd Period-4, North Iowa, Aguilera 5 (Wahlin, Sullivan), 4:27. 5, North Iowa, McNeil 2 (Kubitz, Stewart), 4:40. 6, North Iowa, Enright 4 (Vercellono, Triemert), 8:52. 7, North Iowa, Bowlin 4 (Nauss, Isogai), 9:01. Penalties-Fodstad Roc (holding-minor), 11:41.

3rd Period-8, North Iowa, Fagerlee 12 (Callahan, Sullivan), 9:34. 9, North Iowa, Wahlin 11 (Callahan, Aguilera), 11:26. 10, North Iowa, McNeil 3 (Aguilera, Wahlin), 18:45. Penalties-Olson Roc (roughing-double minor), 17:51; Enright Nio (roughing-double minor), 17:51.

Shots on Goal-Rochester 13-4-5-22. North Iowa 6-14-9-29.
Power Play Opportunities-Rochester 1 / 2; North Iowa 0 / 2.
Goalies-Rochester, Soderwall 5-1-0-0 (29 shots-21 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 4-1-0-0 (22 shots-20 saves).
Referees-Chazz Knoche.
Linesmen-Hunter Mottinger, Travis Neubeck.