MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa ran out to a fast start against the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres on Wednesday night in the Bulls’ Faith and Family Night exhibition game at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Problem is, the Sabres never ran out of gas.
Shattuck-St. Mary’s finished with nine unanswered goals, including six in the third period, for a 9-2 win over the Bulls in front of 610 fans. The Sabres controlled the contest from the midway point on, scoring the final nine goals of the game. The loss does not change North Iowa’s 24-7-1-0 record in NA3HL league play, but it does bump Shattuck-St. Mary’s record to 23-6-4.
The night started strong for the Bulls – Nick Johnson (New Richmond, Wis./Team Wisconsin) and Erik Evans (Minneapolis, Minn./Granite City Lumberjacks) helped to set up the first scoring play, but it was Ivan Bogach (Brooklyn, N.Y./North Iowa Bulls) who volleyed one toward the net from the right point and past Alex Kozic for a 1-0 lead.
Early in the second, the North Iowa lead doubled when Matt Rozman’s (Edina, Minn./Edina Jr. Gold) pass across the front of the net found Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) for a one-timer to Kozic’s left, making it a 2-0 game.
“It was a good feeling early, being up 2-0,” said Bowlin. “I thought we were going to have a better outcome than that, but they came back a lot harder than expected, and they kept piling it on.”
Then the Sabres offense came calling – at the 8:41 mark, Jackson LaCombe popped one under the crossbar past Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./Orono H.S.) to make it a 2-1 game. Just 61 seconds later, the North Iowa lead vanished, with Babekuhl turning aside a Kent Lee chance before Tyler Rollwagen swept in to put away the rebound.
That goal ended Babekuhl’s night, but Connor Poczos (Austin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) fared no better. Artem Shlaine and Dylan Schneider tag-teamed for the go-ahead goal less than three minutes later, with Schneider putting it in at 12:21 of the second period and sending the visitors to the locker room up 3-2.
The third period went to the Sabres in a big way, starting early in the stanza. Shattuck-St. Mary’s sophomore Mackie Samoskevich swooped in behind the net and tucked one in past Poczos’s right skate just 2:15 into the period for a 4-2 lead.
Lee got involved again on the fifth Sabres goal, sending a dot-to-dot pass to Brendan Brisson in front of the North Iowa net, and a laser from Brisson into the upper half of the net at 8:50 of the third added onto the lead.
Goal number six came just after the midway point of the period, with Schneider shoving one through in the middle of a scramble. Despite Cam Fagerlee’s (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) best efforts to defend the edge of the net in front of Poczos, Schneider poked it through for a 6-2 lead. Just 41 seconds later, Minnesota recruit Nik Norman added his name to the scorebook, pinballing one in off of the inside of the left post for a 7-2 lead.
With the game out of reach for the Bulls, Shattuck-St. Mary’s added two more goals late, including a run directly to the net for Samoskevich, who doubled his output by beating Poczos under a full head of steam with 3:47 to go. The final tally came with just 13 seconds on the clock, with Brisson burying one over the shoulder of Poczos to cap a 9-2 game.
“They’re really good,” said Bogach. “They’re fast, they’re extremely skilled and they work really hard. Hard work was the key to everything (they got).”
Schneider, Samoskevich and Brisson all finished the night with a pair of goals, including at least one apiece in an active third period. Poczos picked up the unofficial loss for the Bulls in relief of Babekuhl, allowing seven of the nine goals. Kozic went the distance to pick up the win for Shattuck-St. Mary’s, stopping 23 of the 25 North Iowa shots that came his way, while the Sabres put 46 chances on the Bulls net.
The game was a relatively quiet one in terms of the special teams impact, with North Iowa ending the evening at 1-for-2 and the Sabres coming up empty in their only power play chance. North Iowa was playing shorthanded throughout the night, with top-liners Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) and Jimmy McDermott (Dubuque, Iowa/Wisconsin Whalers) all held out of the lineup with nagging injuries.
The home stretch begins next week for North Iowa, with five big games coming up in a row. Four of them will count in the NA3HL standings, plus a return trip to Shattuck-St. Mary’s for a second exhibition game against the Sabres.
Arch-rival Granite City hosts the Bulls on Friday, January 25 before one final trip to Alexandria the following night. The Lumberjacks come to Mason City for two of their three games in the “Barn” this regular season on Friday and Saturday, February 1 and 2. Live streaming coverage of all five games is available on HockeyTV. For advance tickets to the Granite City home games, or any future Bulls home game, click here.