North Iowa Bulls coach Todd Sanden couldn’t have envisioned a better start by his team against the Twin City Steel on Friday at the North Iowa Ice Arena.
The Bulls (12-2-1-0) set the tone with four first-period goals in an 8-4 victory over the Steel (5-12-0-0) in NA3HL West Division action.
“We know that we’re skilled, and while I like the start, I wish we would have continued that play the entire game,” Sanden said. “I thought we got a little off track there in the second period going into the third period by giving them a little momentum.”
The line of Tony Paulson, Eric Behrend and Patrick Sivets did most of the damage for the Bulls, accounting for 12 points in the victory.
“We came out really strong just like we wanted,” Paulson said. “We did all the little things right and everyone buried the puck. We had our chances and we finished them.”
Playing in just his fourth game with the Bulls, Paulson put North Iowa’s first shot attempt of the night past Sawyer Marshall 1 minute, 13 seconds into the contest.
Meanwhile Sivets ended Marshall’s night in goal for the Steel 6:40 later, making the score 3-0 after a goal by Bryan Broders 2:20 earlier.
Behrend tested Marshall’s replacement, Joey Garapolo, with a power-play goal with 9:45 left in the first period before Paulson added two second-period goals.
Paulson’s second goal of the period gave him a hat trick exactly 30 minutes into the contest and a 6-0 lead for North Iowa.
“Not only was it my first hat trick but these were my first goals in juniors,” Paulson said. “This team is definitely the best in the league.”
Sanden was thrilled to see that type of production out of not only his newcomer but his veterans in Behrend and Sivets as well.
“Paulson had a breakout night for us,” the coach said. “Not only does he score his first junior goal but ends up with a hat trick on the night. Behrend and Sivets were really good, too, at scoring and also moving the puck up the rink. That was by far our best line.”
Connor Langfield and James Hughes added third-period goals for the Bulls, whose offense made goaltender Aaron Davis comfortable in net in his first start.
Davis stopped all 10 shots he faced in the opening period, finishing with 25 saves.
“It’s nice that he could enjoy the goal support,” Sanden said. “He was looking forward to that and he actually commented on it being nice that not every shot he faced was critical. With a team in front of him that can put pucks in the net, it made it a lot easier for him to just relax and play.”
While the Bulls were comfortable for all 60 minutes on Friday, Sanden said that won’t be the case tonight as his team hosts division-leading Granite City at 7:30.
“Whenever you have Granite City coming to town it’s hard to feel comfortable but we know we’re good at home and we’re comfortable at home with the fans behind us,” Sanden said.
-Courtesy of Globe Gazette