MASON CITY, Iowa – After dealing with a flat bus tire and driving back through a winter storm on Friday night, the North Iowa Bulls finally returned to Mason City just shy of 3:30 a.m. on Saturday. Certainly after that, one could forgive the Bulls if they started Saturday’s home game against Rochester a little flat, a little cold and a little late.
Instead, the Bulls’ Friday night sojourn back from Minnesota described everything their start on Saturday night was not. However, the ending fell flat for the Bulls in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Grizzlies.
North Iowa scored twice in the opening five minutes of the game. Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./Milwaukee Jr. Admirals U18) fired one just wide of the net from the right point, but the puck happened to find Konnor Carlson (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley H.S.) in front of the net for the redirect just 3:21 into the contest.
An interception from Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) at center set up the next goal at 4:57 of the first period. His play ahead caught Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) on the run, and Blackowiak leaned into a shot at the middle of the slot that beat Nick Bucklin on the stick side.
That 2-0 lead lasted into the second period, but Nic Leisen helped to turn things around for the Grizzlies just before the halfway mark of the sescond period. After a turnover at center, Leisen would finish off a 3-on-2 chance to cut the lead to one.
Oskar Stahl set up the tying goal less than four minutes later, drawing a double-team in front of the Bulls net before leaving it for Vladislav Sorokin to smash one past Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) to tie the game.
The third period’s only penalty gave North Iowa a chance to take the lead, and they took advantage. Just 17 seconds after an interference call against Colin Mehren, Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) found Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) through the middle, and Verstegen finished the assembly line by lighting the lamp from the slot and took the lead back at the 1:58 mark of the third.
That was the first of three quick goals as the teams traded tallies early in the final stanza. Rochester had its response at 3:02 of the period, with Sorokin posting his fourth goal of the weekend by ringing a right-wing shot off the inside of the far post for a 3-3 tie.
At 6:50 of the third period, Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) had the play of the night, dragging the puck across the front of the net and backhanding it past Bucklin to take a 4-3 lead that seemed to hold up.
It held up until the last 34 seconds of regulation. With Bucklin out of the net, the Grizzlies made an all-out run at tying the game, and got the goal they wanted after Nick Latvala’s blue-line shot rebounded out front. Another chance was blocked, but Lucas Newman put away a third-chance opportunity to tie the game.
North Iowa got only one shot on net in the extra session, but the third one was the charm for the Grizzlies. Sorokin’s shot from high in the zone bounced into the corner, and Newman swept back into the slot to snipe the winner past Babekuhl with 1:46 left on the overtime clock.
After outshooting Rochester 47-27 on the road on Friday night, North Iowa found itself on the opposite end Saturday. The Grizzlies put 52 shots on net against the Bulls’ 30. Each team also picked up a power play goal
Sorokin had two goals and two assists, while Newman added a helper to his two tallies. Verstegen had the big night for the Bulls, with a goal and an assists. Bowlin added a couple of assists.
Babekuhl took the loss with his 47 saves, dropping to 7-5-1-0 as the Bulls fell to 29-11-3-0 for the year. Bucklin made 26 saves, climbing to 18-6-1-0 as the Grizzlies bumped their record to 28-14-1-0.
The Bulls are back in town to tango with two teams Friday and Saturday night. Granite City heads to the “Barn” in hopes of sweeping the regular-season series on Friday night, while New Ulm visits Mason City on Saturday night. Both games are set for a 7:30 p.m. puck drop, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
Friday night is “Five For Fighting” night, featuring $5 admission, $5 Bulls t-shirts and two beers for $5. For advance tickets to Friday’s game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Rochester 0 2 2 1 – 5
North Iowa 2 0 2 0 – 4
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Carlson 8 (Stewart), 3:21. 2, North Iowa, Blackowiak 24 (Bowlin), 4:57. Penalties-Bogach Nio (hooking-minor), 5:57; Stahl Roc (roughing-minor), 6:17; Nagel Nio (roughing-minor), 6:17; Verstegen Nio (tripping-minor), 6:40; Leisen Roc (hooking-minor), 10:05; Stahl Roc (head contact-minor), 13:16; Verstegen Nio (boarding-minor), 18:29; Petronack Nio (tripping-minor), 19:55.
2nd Period-3, Rochester, Leisen 7 (Hall, Evans), 9:21. 4, Rochester, Sorokin 37 (Stahl, Bacon), 13:11 (PP). Penalties-Stahl Roc (checking from behind-minor), 10:56; Fagerlee Nio (high sticking-minor), 11:38; Stahl Roc (cross checking-minor), 16:14; Verstegen Nio (holding-minor), 16:14; Leisen Roc (slashing-minor), 17:54; Junker Nio (tripping-minor), 19:04.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Verstegen 30 (Studioso, Petronack), 1:58 (PP). 6, Rochester, Sorokin 38 (Newman, Olson), 3:02. 7, North Iowa, Dahlseide 17 (Bowlin, Verstegen), 6:50. 8, Rochester, Newman 13 (Sorokin, DeRosa), 19:26. Penalties-Mehren Roc (interference-minor), 1:41.
OT Period-9, Rochester, Newman 14 (Sorokin, Olson), 3:14. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Rochester 14-17-18-3-52. North Iowa 6-13-10-1-30.
Power Play Opportunities-Rochester 1 / 6; North Iowa 1 / 5.
Goalies-Rochester, Bucklin 18-6-1-0 (30 shots-26 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 7-5-1-0 (52 shots-47 saves).