MASON CITY, Iowa – A slow start to the scoring belied what was to come between the North Iowa Bulls and the Bismarck Bobcats Friday night, with the Bobcats posting five second-period goals on the way to a 6-2 win at the Mason City Arena in a North American Hockey League Central Division battle. Neither side landed a blow on the other until the final two minutes of the opening stanza, and until Bismarck’s final goal with five minutes left in the second, the teams never went more than five minutes without a goal again.
The opening goal came with 1:40 remaining in the first period, when Trevor Mitchell tossed the puck to the back post, bagging an assist on a tip-in from Brady Egan for the 1-0 lead. Bismarck was able to gain a little separation at the middle of the period on the way to a 14-10 shots-on-goal advantage in the first period, taking the one-goal margin to the locker room.
After that, the offenses exploded, starting with Jake McLean’s faceoff win and a snap toward the net from Ryan Taylor – his shot beat Kyle Kozma (Vaughan, Ontario/Minnesota Magicians) for the 2-0 lead just two seconds after the draw and 1:37 out of the break.
It took just 33 seconds for North Iowa to respond, with Hunter Bulger (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) dropping a pass back for Jake LaRusso (Colts Neck, N.J./New Jersey Titans) at the top of the right-wing faceoff circle and LaRusso burying the chance to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The lead hit 4-1 less than six minutes later, thanks to back-to-back markers from Bismarck – on a rush into the North Iowa end, Egan found Quinn Rudrud on the back door for a tap-in to make it 3-1 at the 6:14 mark, and at 7:50 of the period, Taylor added onto his total with a wrister from the left point that snuck over Kozma’s right shoulder.
A pair of infractions midway through the period kicked the door open for a North Iowa comeback, with Chase Beacom going to the penalty box for slashing at 9:03 and Aiden VanRooyan following him on an interference call 20 seconds later. Sean Vlasich (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Amarillo Bulls) faced up and fired a shot down the slot on the 5-on-3 just eight seconds later, putting the Bulls back within striking distance at 4-2. Michael Mesic earned the primary assist on Vlasich’s goal, making him the first North Iowa Bull to reach the 40-point mark this season.
“I was looking for my flank guys on the left and right, and they took those guys away,” said Vlasich. “They kind of let me walk down the middle, so I decided, why not shoot it?”
An icing call against North Iowa put the comeback on ice, though – five seconds after the ensuing faceoff, Ben Troumbly’s shot found its way off the high glass and to the edge of the cage, where Egan was waiting to stuff it in for a shorthanded goal to push the lead back to three. The final goal of the night would come with 5:01 remaining, as Egan struck again on the 4-on-4 to complete the hat trick and bump the final margin to 6-2.
“They got after us pretty hard in that second period,” said Vlasich. “I thought after we got that 5-on-3 goal to make it 4-2, we were going to get some momentum back. They got a quick shorthanded goal which swung it right back in their favor, but they were hitting a lot of nice shots tonight. I just thought we didn’t play the right way in the second period, but we came right out hard in the third, and we need to continue that into tomorrow.”
The win was a rare one for the visiting team in the head-to-head series, with five of the first seven meetings going to the team skating on its home ice.
Taylor picked up a pair of goals to go with Egan’s three, while four other Bobcats posted multi-point games. Oskar Spinnars Nordin earned his fourth win in five tries against North Iowa, making 26 saves on 28 shots. Kozma was saddled with his first regulation loss as a Bull, stopping 28 of Bismarck’s 34 shots. Each team ended the night with a pair of power play chances, with North Iowa the only team to claim success on the man-advantage.
The Bulls dropped to 19-18-2-4 with the loss, while the Bobcats climbed to 17-23-1-2 ahead of a rematch Saturday night, with the puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Mason City Arena. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and Mixlr.
Saturday’s game celebrates National Tug-of-War Night, with a Tug-of-War tournament on the ice during the first intermission – to purchase advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call the Bulls Ticket Line at 641-450-0914 or click here. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the Bulls’ social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Bismarck 1 5 0 – 6
North Iowa 0 2 0 – 2
1st Period-1, Bismarck, Egan 4 (Mitchell, Beacom), 18:20. Penalties-Morich Nio (tripping-minor), 7:21.
2nd Period-2, Bismarck, Taylor 2 (McLean), 1:37. 3, North Iowa, LaRusso 8 (Bulger, Mexico), 2:10. 4, Bismarck, Rudrud 18 (Egan, Hanson), 6:14. 5, Bismarck, Taylor 3 (McLean, Troumbly), 7:50. 6, North Iowa, Vlasich 5 (Mesic, Japchen), 9:31 (PP). 7, Bismarck, Egan 5 (Troumbly), 10:05 (SH). 8, Bismarck, Egan 6 (Beacom, Rudrud), 14:59. Penalties-Beacom Bis (slashing-minor), 9:03; VanRooyan Bis (interference-minor), 9:23; VanRooyan Bis (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 14:39; Campion Nio (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 14:39.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Bulger Nio (slashing-minor), 19:51; Johnson Bis (unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 20:00.
Shots on Goal-Bismarck 14-14-6-34. North Iowa 10-10-8-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Bismarck 0 / 2; North Iowa 1 / 2.
Goalies-Bismarck, Spinnars Nordin 9-6-0-1 (28 shots-26 saves). North Iowa, Kozma 6-8-2-0 (34 shots-28 saves).
Linesmen-Jake Caneff, Craig Ford.