Post Game Report 12-30
MASON CITY, Iowa – The biggest weakness for the North Iowa Bulls through the first 60 percent of their season was an inability to play a full 60-minute game despite the results against their Central Division brethren. If they didn’t play a full game Friday night, they came awfully close with an 8-1 victory over the Rochester Ice Hawks, keeping the Bulls unbeaten on home ice this year.
The Bulls got out to a rapid start, scoring on two of their first four shots of the contest including Josh Arnold‘s (Roseville, Minn./Bismarck Bobcats) opening re-direct at the front of the net just 1:53 into the contest. That goal came 35 seconds into the opening power play of the night for the Bulls as well. Eric Piatt (Fargo, N.D./North Iowa Bulls) fired a point shot just three-and-a-half minutes later that was also re-directed at the mouth of the goal by Mitch Parsons (Grandville, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) to double the lead. That 2-0 lead stood up going to the first intermission as North Iowa forged ahead with a 16-6 shots advantage over the first 20 minutes.
A four-goal run highlighted the Bulls’ second period, starting early again with Mitch Dolter‘s (Faribault, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary’s) tally at 1:36 of the stanza, with just nine seconds remaining on a second North Iowa man-advantage. A left-wing pass just 14 seconds into the third Bulls 5-on-4 of the night found Arnold in front, who angled the puck in for his second score of the night. Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) made a nifty comeback from a neck laceration and a four-week stint on injured reserve by pushing in a goal at 12:14 of the second period as the net came off its moorings.
That goal was a prelude to the end of the night for Rochester netminder Drew Schenkenberg, but replacement Bailey Schmitz did not fare much better. With 4:56 showing on the clock, Tim Kuivinen‘s (Mahtomedi, Minn./Mahtomedi H.S.) wrist shot went up and over the Ice Hawks net, but with Schenkenberg committed to Kuivinen’s shot, Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) put away the hanging rebound to build the lead to six goals. Only a footrace up the right-wing wall by Andrew Gates and a tough-angle shot at the bottom of the faceoff circle to R.J. Pluhar‘s (Glen Carbon, Ill./Aberdeen Wings) left allowed the Ice Hawks to get on the board with 2:38 remaining before the break.
Just 97 seconds into the third period, Dolter struck again off of a pass from Arnold to the net, and the former Sabre flipped the puck into the open cage to build the lead back to a half-dozen goals. The final power-play tally of the night came with 7:52 remaining in the contest, thanks to a one-timer goal from Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) off of an assist by Barnes. Over the four North Iowa power plays in the game, the Bulls spent just 3:42 on the man-advantage before racking up their four man-advantage goals.
The win runs North Iowa’s home winning streak to 21 games, dating back to February of last season, and the Bulls move their home record to 12-0-0 for this season. Pluhar remains unbeaten in eight NA3HL decisions, thanks to 23 saves and a near-shutout in Friday’s outing. Schenkenberg officially took the loss for the visitors, dropping his record back to 3-10-0 for the year, making just 24 stops on 30 North Iowa shots. Schmitz stopped 14 of 16 in relief for the Ice Hawks. With his third-period assist, Barnes finds himself just two assists shy of the 100-helper mark in a Bulls uniform.
The Bulls head on the road to Rochester for a New Year’s Eve date to finish off the second weekend home-and-home of the season for the two teams. The opening faceoff is slated for 7:05 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.