The North Iowa Bulls staved off a two-goal Alexandria lead Saturday night, and a three-game losing streak at home, coming back for a 3-2 shootout win over the Blizzard at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Chris Amsden (St. Peter, MN) stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced in his first game back with the Bulls after a half-season stint with the NAHL's Minnesota Magicians.
Where Friday night's game featured a flurry of scoring in the first period, the only scoring came off of a Bulls stick into the Bulls' net. AJ Gullickson's shot from the left point went wide, but a deflection from Bo Gronseth and a home stick gave the Blizzard the lead just 1:08 into the contest. That lead held up into the second period, when penalties to Joe Burgmeier (Mason City, IA) and Carmen Dalesandro (Cannonsburg, PA) put the Bulls down 5-on-3 and gave Alexandria the opening they needed to double the lead. A long-distance pass from Evan Jones hit Gronseth deep in the faceoff circle to the right of Amsden, and a successful wrist shot put the Blizzard up 2-0 at the 7:31 mark of the period. North Iowa finally broke a 62-minute scoreless streak at 13:08 of the second with a Johnny Panvica (Bloomington, MN) goal on a rebound from Dalesandro's left-side shot, cutting the lead to 2-1 going to the third.
"That's what we talked about last night: execution on their part was good, and execution on our part needed to be better," said Bulls head coach Todd Sanden. "Tonight, I thought we had a few chances where if we had been a bit quicker on pucks we'd have found the back of the net, but these teams are all good teams, especially in our division. They play fast and they play hard."
Jake Johnson's (Sun Prairie, WI) throw in front went to Jake Mullendore (Amery, WI) on the right post, and the Bulls crowd of 1,352 leapt to its feet with 11:50 to play in the third period as Mullendore's poke-in tied the game at 2. After falling to Twin City on January 2 in a shootout, the Bulls would not be denied in another one as goals from Johnson and Panvica found the net in the shootout, sending the Bulls home with the extra-time win.
"It was a great team effort again tonight," said Sanden. "I'm excited to have Chris Amsden back with us and I thought he did a great job for us tonight. The kids just kept battling, they never gave up and Alexandria played outstanding. I thought their goaltending was solid all weekend, and we feel fortunate to come out of here with a shootout victory at home."
North Iowa moves to 14-1-1 in games at the North Iowa Ice Arena this season, and to 29-7-1 overall on the year, while Alexandria falls to 22-12-1. The point also gives the Bulls an important leg up going into a two-game visit to Granite City next weekend, with the Bulls hanging on to a three-point advantage in the NA3HL West Division standings. The Lumberjacks have two games in hand on North Iowa, and have a better winning percentage going into their weekend series in Sauk Rapids. The Bulls return to Mason City for "Twin Night" on Friday, February 6 against the Twin City Steel. Faceoff time at the North Iowa Ice Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.