MASON CITY, Iowa – Last season, overtime luck was not on the North Iowa Bulls’ side. The Bulls went to the extra session 12 times, prevailing just twice.
The early sample size is small, but North Iowa is off to a good start in its second season in the North American Hockey League. The Bulls nabbed an overtime win in a preseason game at Aberdeen, and picked up a shootout victory Saturday night at the Mason City Arena, holding off the Austin Bruins by a 5-4 mark.
North Iowa got out to an impressive start after picking up a 3-2 win in Austin on Friday night. The Bulls snagged two goals in the opening 20 minutes, taking the lead with 5:46 left in the first period on a power play goal from Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./North Iowa Bulls) that zipped right down the slot, beating goaltender Trent Wiemken. North Iowa added another one with 3:06 left, when Cayden Casey (Elk River, Minn./Andover H.S.) cleaned up a rebound in front of the Bruins’ net.
The first five minutes of the second period, though, saw Austin catapult back into the game. Dylan Cook got right to work at the 50-second mark, roping one over the right shoulder of Erik Chaffe (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Mason City Toros). That goal put the Bruins on the board with just 20 seconds left on a power play following a hooking call against Carter Theissen (Plymouth, Minn./).
Matt Desiderio followed it up by swatting in a third-chance goal at 2:33 of the period to tie the game, and banking off the iron over Chaffe’s left shoulder to give the Bruins the lead at 4:21.
Mitchell Day (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis Blues AAA) entered the net, and the Bulls re-entered the lead late in the period. Hartley found Max Scott (San Jose, Calif./North Iowa Bulls) on the weak side for the tying one-timer on the power play with 5:05 left in the period, and Justin Mexico (Madison Heights, Mich./North Iowa Bulls) scored on a penalty shot with 1:17 left in the period to take the 4-3 lead to the locker room.
The lead would not last – Walter Zacher tipped in a shot from Damon Furuseth on a Bruins power play with 6:31 remaining, erasing the Bulls’ lead for a second time.
North Iowa fired off three of the four shots in the overtime period, but it took a shootout effort with goals from Casey and Scott to come away with the win. Gavin Morrissey had a goal in the shootout’s second round for Austin.
The power play numbers were impressive, with the Bulls tallying goals on two of their four chances and the Bruins posting a goal on two of their six. Austin picked up the shots-on-goal advantage for the second straight night, finishing ahead 28-22, including a 13-4 gap in the second period. Down 9-7 in the shot count entering the period, the Bruins rattled off 11 of the period’s first 12 shots.
Logan Dombrowsky (Stevens Point, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) was impressive as well, notching assists on all three possible North Iowa goals in the contest. Hartley had a goal and an assist, while Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Iowa Bulls) posted a couple of assists of his own. Desiderio did all he could for the Bruins, with two goals and an assist in the loss.
Chaffe took the no-decision, stopping 11 of the 14 shots he saw before exiting in the second period. Day earned the win with 13 saves on 14 Austin shots, while Wiemken took the shootout loss behind a 17-save effort.
“I’ve got to give props to our goaltending every game,” said Dombrowsky. “They’ve been great so far – we need to keep playing our game and picking up wins. Last year, a lot of our games were close, with a lot of come-from-behind wins. We don’t want to come from behind every game, but if we have to, we can do it.”
North Iowa earned its first weekend sweep over the Bruins since last November, taking over sole possession of first place in the NAHL’s Central Division race ahead of a road trip to Aberdeen, South Dakota next week. The Wings will come in on a brief hot streak as well, sweeping St. Cloud on the road this weekend.
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Austin 0 3 1 0 – 4
North Iowa 2 2 0 0 – 5
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Hartley 4 (Potter, Dombrowsky), 14:14 (PP). 2, North Iowa, Casey 3 (Dombrowsky, Potter), 16:54. Penalties-Cook Aus (tripping-minor), 1:07; Nousiaine Nio (hooking-minor), 7:28; Cook Aus (interference-minor), 12:51; Thiessen Nio (hooking-minor), 19:10.
2nd Period-3, Austin, Cook 4 (Giuliani, Goffredo), 0:50 (PP). 4, Austin, Desiderio 1 (Lindahl, Christiano), 2:33. 5, Austin, Desiderio 2 (Salani, Giuliani), 4:21. 6, North Iowa, Scott 3 (Hartley, Dombrowsky), 14:55 (PP). 7, North Iowa, Mexico 4 18:43 (PS). Penalties-Dadie Nio (checking from behind-minor), 5:11; Sweeney Nio (holding-minor), 10:59; Fiorillo Aus (holding-minor), 13:52; Mexico Nio (hooking-minor), 18:48.
3rd Period-8, Austin, Zacher 5 (Furuseth, Desiderio), 13:29 (PP). Penalties-Zacher Aus (hooking-minor), 1:22; Dombrowsky Nio (kneeing-minor), 11:46.
OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
Shootout – Austin 1 (Goffredo NG, Morrissey G, Furuseth NG), North Iowa 2 (Casey G, Scott G).
Shots on Goal-Austin 7-13-7-1-0-28. North Iowa 9-4-5-3-1-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Austin 2 / 6; North Iowa 2 / 4.
Goalies-Austin, Wiemken 1-0-0-1 (21 shots-17 saves). North Iowa, Chaffe 3-0-0-0 (14 shots-11 saves); Day 3-2-0-0 (14 shots-13 saves).
Linesmen-Ben Stark, Tyler Willie.