MASON CITY, Iowa – Carter Rapalje (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) had played in front of the North Iowa Bulls faithful five times prior to Friday night’s game against the Bismarck Bobcats, and had never scored in the Mason City Arena.
Turns out, Friday’s game was as much about making up for lost time as anything.
Rapalje peppered the Bobcats’ net to the tune of four goals on seven shots in a 6-4 North Iowa victory, giving the Bulls their first hat trick in the NAHL era and wiping away a three-game losing skid in the first-ever meeting between the teams.
With both teams looking to put some meat on their power-play bones during the 2021 stretch run, North Iowa feasted on its first chance, following a tripping call against Nico Chmelevski at the game’s three-minute mark. Greg Japchen (Doylestown, Pa./Amarillo Bulls) raced down the left-wing boards and sent the puck out front for Rapalje, who added a brief dangle before poking the puck past Erik Forss just 4:39 into the game.
The Bulls got their first even-strength goal with 5:50 left in the period, with Rapalje beating a pair of defenders into the Bismarck zone and tossing a forehand past Forss’s glove for a 2-0 lead heading to the locker room.
Bismarck got its first goal in the midst of a 6-on-5 in the second period, thanks to a delayed penalty call against Michael Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Honeybaked 16U) for tripping – a backdoor pass from Calvin Hanson out of the corner caught Aidan VanRooyan on the back door, and he popped the puck past Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) into the top of the net for a 2-1 advantage.
Rapalje wouldn’t even need the third period to get his third goal – with 1:13 left in the second period, Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./Amarillo Bulls) led Mesic into the Bobcats’ zone on the right wing, and his pass across found Rapalje for a one-timer in the left-wing faceoff circle that beat Forss for a 3-1 lead and sent several hats flying out of the season-high crowd of 1,204.
The teams chipped away at each other for the majority of the third period, but once the dam broke, the teams flooded the scoreboard the rest of the way. Rapalje capped his career night on the penalty kill with 7:43 remaining – halfway through a holding infraction against Dombrowsky, he picked up a chip from Japchen at neutral ice and raced in to sneak one under the crossbar against Forss for a 4-1 lead.
North Iowa’s lead went as high as four, with Max Scott (San Jose, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) burying a forehand chance with 6:21 remaining in the game. It took just 30 seconds for the Bobcats to answer on a rush down the left wing, with Alex Pietila tossing one past Garvey while throwing on the brakes in front of the net.
The Bulls pushed the lead to 6-2 less than a minute later, as Dombrowsky wrapped the puck around the net and stuffed it in on Forss’s stick side. The barrage finally ended 50 seconds after Dombrowsky’s goal, with Jon Ziskie blasting home a one-timer from the right point to cut the lead to 6-3. Ziskie’s goal at 15:53 of the third period capped a run of five combined goals in just over three-and-a-half minutes.
North Iowa was never able to score into Bismarck’s empty net despite three minutes of 6-on-5 play, but the Bobcats picked up a bit of window dressing with 0.6 seconds remaining on a backhand shovel throw in front of the net from Hanson.
“We were really excited to get back at it,” said Rapalje. “We knew we had unfinished business against Aberdeen after that tough weekend, so we were ready to go.”
Rapalje was far from the only player to post a notable night, with Mesic picking up three assists for North Iowa and Dombrowsky posting a goal and an assist. Japchen picked up two assists of his own, while VanRooyan’s three points headlined the scoring effort for the visitors. Rapalje’s four-goal night was the first for the Bulls since Cam Fagerlee’s four-goal game in a 7-3 win over the New Ulm Steel in March of 2019.
Forss made 34 saves on 40 North Iowa shots, taking the loss as the Bulls outshot their opponents for the third straight game. Garvey earned his fifth win of the season on 31 saves. Each team earned a pair of power play chances, with only North Iowa converting on one. The Bulls moved to 9-4-0-2 with the win, while the Bobcats dropped to 3-11-1-0 with the loss.
Tickets for Saturday’s game and all North Iowa home games are on sale now – to purchase advance tickets to any upcoming Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Bismarck 0 1 3 – 4
North Iowa 2 1 3 – 6
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Rapalje 7 (Japchen), 4:39 (PP). 2, North Iowa, Rapalje 8 (Boxer, Mesic), 14:11. Penalties-Chmelevski Bis (tripping-minor), 3:00; Larsen Bis (interference-minor), 10:28; Potter Nio (delay of game-minor), 19:55.
2nd Period-3, Bismarck, VanRooyan 1 7:42. 4, North Iowa, Rapalje 9 (Mesic, Dombrowsky), 18:47. Penalties-Mesic Nio (tripping-minor), 7:42.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Rapalje 10 (Japchen), 12:17 (SH). 6, North Iowa, Scott 5 (Mexico, Dadie), 13:39. 7, Bismarck, Pietila 4 (Novak, VanRooyan), 14:09. 8, North Iowa, Dombrowsky 6 (Mesic), 15:03. 9, Bismarck, Ziskie 1 (Larsen, Mclean), 15:53. 10, Bismarck, Hanson 4 (Mclean, VanRooyan), 19:59. Penalties-Dombrowsky Nio (holding-minor), 11:17.
Shots on Goal-Bismarck 10-9-16-35. North Iowa 17-12-11-40.
Power Play Opportunities-Bismarck 0 / 2; North Iowa 1 / 2.
Goalies-Bismarck, Forss 3-6-1-0 (40 shots-34 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 5-2-0-2 (35 shots-31 saves).
Linesmen-Reilly Hickey, Gavin Jocelyn.