Post Game Report 11-26
MASON CITY, Iowa – Puck control, passing, skating and discipline are all things a hockey team needs to win – for the first 40 minutes of Saturday night’s game against the La Crosse Freeze, the North Iowa Bulls didn’t have much of any of those. And yet, the Bulls turned a 2-0 nailbiter going to the third period into a 6-0 rout to extend their home winning streak to 18 games, the longest active win streak on home ice in the NA3HL.
The Bulls pulled ahead at the 6:19 point of the first period on a 2-on-1 rush – Caylen Dyni‘s (Fond du Lac, Wis./Fond du Lac H.S.) initial shot from the right faceoff circle was kicked aside by Connor Klaers, right to Mitch Parsons (Grandville, Mich./North Iowa Bulls), who was ready and waiting to tap in the rebound for the opening goal. The Bulls looked as if they would head to the second period with only a one-goal lead, but a pass from Parsons in a last-ditch scramble found Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./Bismarck Bobcats) on the doorstep, and Arnold tapped the puck into the net with just 3.4 seconds remaining on the first-period clock.
After trailing on the shot count 16-10 in the opening period, the second stanza saw the Bulls tie the shot count, but did not see the home team extend its lead. The Freeze were unable to capitalize on a few big special-teams chances, including a sequence at the end of the period that took North Iowa into the third period on the wrong end of a 5-on-3 situation. Discipline was not the Bulls’ strong suit at the start of the third, either – just 26 seconds after Zach Hayes‘s (Bartlett, Ill./Team Illinois) interference minor from the end of the second period elapsed, Sean Mallonee‘s (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) tripping infraction put La Crosse back up 5-on-3, but another visiting power play went by without incident.
“We were very fortunate that Josh Benson (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater H.S.) was on his game,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “We could have been down, quite easily, 4-2 or 5-2 at the end of 40 minutes tonight. You’ve really got to hand it to Josh for that first 40 minutes.”
The offensive rebounds bit the Freeze again at the 11:48 mark of the third period, when a 3-on-2 shot from Mallonee rebounded to Arnold, who stuffed it into the net to add to the two-goal lead. The lead went to 4-0 just more than a minute later, after a slip pass from Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) found Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) waiting on the post to Klaers’s right – before Klaers could re-commit to his right side, the puck was already in and the red light lit.
Klaers nearly made a beautiful diving save to his left on a right-wing shot from Owen Larson (Minneapolis, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) at 13:31 of the period, but the puck trickled out of his glove and into the net for a 5-0 lead. The final tally came with just under four minutes showing on the third period clock, thanks to Parsons’s rip from mid-slot – Lucas McKinnon‘s (Mason City, Iowa/Appleton United H.S.) redirect in front of the net beat Klaers one final time and capped off a win that saw the final four goals come in a span of just over four minutes.
“I think this is one of those situations where our depth wore them down a little bit,” says Sanden. “We got some goals in quick succession, so looking at turning that 2-0 [lead] into 6-0, we always feel capable if we can get some time in the offensive zone to score. You’ve got to hand it to La Crosse – this is a team that every time they play, they play a full 60 minutes. We know it’s coming, we talk about it coming, but I feel fortunate that we came out of this game with the score that we did. They were pretty darn good tonight, pressuring us extensively for extended periods of time.”
Benson moved his record to 7-0 on the year with his first shutout as a North Iowa Bull, making 27 saves. Klaers will head into Sunday still hunting for his first 3HL win, making 28 saves on 34 North Iowa shots. Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./Soo Eagles) also had a highlight evening, with his first three-assist game in a Bulls sweater. While Barnes will hope to start a brand-new point streak with his third-period assist, he can at least boast of an 11-game point streak at home following Saturday’s game.
North Iowa heads on the road to La Crosse on Sunday to finish their home-and-home against the Freeze. The opening faceoff at the Green Island Ice Arena is set for 3 p.m., with a 2:45 p.m. pregame show on Mixlr. All Bulls games, home and away, are also streamed live on HockeyTV. The Bulls return home next Friday for the front end of a home-and-home against New Ulm, as the Steel make their first visit to “The Barn” since moving from the Twin Cities. The opening faceoff on Teddy Bear Toss Night is set for 7:30 p.m.