MASON CITY, Iowa – It seemed only appropriate that North Iowa’s annual Teddy Bear Toss would take place against the Rochester Grizzlies, one of the fiercest species of bears in the animal kingdom. It took the Bulls, and hundreds of the stuffed bears (with the occasional Mickey and Goofy thrown in) to hand the visitors a 5-2 loss on Saturday night at the North Iowa Ice Arena. It was the first time in three tries that the Bulls had been able to snag a win from their nearest neighbors to the north, and North Iowa ran its home record to 10-1-0-0 on the season.
For the first time this season, North Iowa fired the opening salvo on the Grizzlies, with Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) finding Jack Giddings (Anoka, Minn./Anoka H.S.) above the goal line for a one-timer and a 1-0 lead at the 8:49 mark of the game.
That brought the teddy bears onto the ice, but Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) and Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) tag-teamed on a 2-on-2 just two minutes later, and Studioso finished off the play with his 13th goal of the season to make it 2-0.
The Grizzlies answered back shortly after, though, at the end of a power play on Cam Fagerlee’s (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) hooking minor. With 10 seconds left in the man-advantage and 3:35 on the first-period clock, Brock Hildenbrand’s shot from the right wing was deflected in front of the net by Nic Leisen, who re-directed it past Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede U18) to push the score to 2-1 going to the second period.
That second period was good to the Bulls power play, with a pair of special-teams goals coming in that 20-minute span. A pass from Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) set up the oddest goal of the night at 7:13 of the second period. McDermott’s goal came from behind the net, deflecting it in from behind off of Max Clouser to stretch the lead back to two goals.
That spelled the end of Clouser’s night but it didn’t spell the end of the Bulls’ scoring. Blackowiak himself beat Nick Bucklin on another power play at 9:54 of the period, elevating one over the left shoulder for a 4-1 lead.
“Jarod was good on the power play tonight,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “That was a ripper down the left side, and I think he clipped the goalie in the shoulder a bit when he beat him up top. If he gets four or five shots a night he’ll get a couple of goals. He can really shoot the puck.”
A check from behind with 2:51 remaining in the period briefly knocked Studioso out of the game, and spelled the end of the night for the Grizzlies’ Seth Bacon on a five-minute major and a game misconduct. North Iowa would not score in that five-minute span.
Joey Fodstad forced the Bulls to play with a two-goal lead for much of the third, after Stephan Jirovec tossed it ahead to set up Fodstad’s breakaway goal just 2:21 into the final period. After Bucklin exited the Grizzlies net with three minutes remaining, North Iowa got its last goal with 1:55 remaining. Fagerlee’s attempt to score from the back half missed wide, but Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) won the footrace to beat the icing call, and fed it back to Scott Moyer (Stillwater, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) above the goal line for the one-timer and the clincher.
Skinner improves to 6-2-0-0 with the win, and the Bulls improved to 16-6-0-0, moving two points in front of Rochester and returning to second place in the NA3HL West Division. Skinner made 34 saves on 36 Rochester shots, while Clouser made just 14 saves to take the loss. The Grizzlies are 15-6-0-0 heading out of the weekend, with Clouser dropping to 3-2-0-0. Bucklin made 12 saves in relief after picking up the win on Friday.
“He’s good. He fronts pucks well and minimizes extra shots on rebounds,” said Sanden. “He’s really done a nice job for them.”
Blackowiak’s goal pushed his point streak up to nine games. He’s scored a goal in eight of those contests, with 14 of his 15 goals coming in that time frame. Dahlseide is into double-digits, with a 10-game point streak after Saturday’s win. Skinner has also been red-hot, winning his last four straight and posting a .956 save percentage since giving up his last loss Oct. 13 at Granite City.
Up next for the Bulls is a home-and-home set next weekend against the Willmar WarHawks. Games Friday night in Willmar and Saturday night in Mason City are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV. Free audio streaming will also be available for Saturday night’s game on Mixlr.
The Bulls wrap up the 2018 portion of their home schedule against the WarHawks with their “Naughty and Nice Night.” We’ll celebrate Christmas with both Santa Claus and Dr. Seuss’s famous Grinch. For advance tickets to next Saturday’s game or any future Bulls home game, click here.
Rochester 1 0 1 – 2
North Iowa 2 2 1 – 5
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Giddings 7 (Bowlin, Stewart), 8:49. 2, North Iowa, Studioso 13 (McDermott, Blackowiak), 10:53. 3, Rochester, Leisen 3 (Hildenbrand), 16:25 (PP). Penalties-Fodstad Roc (roughing-minor), 7:48; Petronack Nio (cross checking-minor), 7:48; Leisen Roc (slashing-minor), 13:00; Fagerlee Nio (hooking-minor), 14:35.
2nd Period-4, North Iowa, McDermott 8 (Blackowiak, Johnson), 7:13 (PP). 5, North Iowa, Blackowiak 15 (Petronack, Skinner), 9:54 (PP). Penalties-Bacon Roc (cross checking-minor), 7:06; Postula Roc (slashing-minor), 8:08; Bacon Roc (checking from behind-major, checking from behind-gm), 17:12; Fodstad Roc (roughing-minor), 17:12; McDermott Nio (roughing-minor), 17:12.
3rd Period-6, Rochester, Fodstad 9 (Jirovec), 2:21. 7, North Iowa, Moyer 2 (Dahlseide, Fagerlee), 18:06 (EN). Penalties-Postula Roc (roughing-minor), 7:13; McDermott Nio (roughing-minor, cross checking-minor), 7:13.
Shots on Goal-Rochester 12-11-13-36. North Iowa 10-14-7-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Rochester 1 / 2; North Iowa 2 / 4.
Goalies-Rochester, Closer 3-2-0-0 (17 shots-14 saves); Bucklin 10-1-0-0 (13 shots-12 saves). North Iowa, Skinner 6-2-0-0 (36 shots-34 saves); Babekuhl 4-4-0-0 (0 shots-0 saves).
Linesmen-Colin Briscoe, Grant Crowell.