NEW ULM, Minn. – All it took was another 13.6 seconds. Just one more save. Just one more chance.
North Iowa’s shutout streak came to a late end on Friday night, but the Bulls’ winning streak reached six games with a 6-1 win at the New Ulm Steel, with the squad looking to make a statement in its final visit to the New Ulm Civic Center this season. While the Bulls fell short of their fifth consecutive shutout, the team’s scoreless defensive run reached nearly 334 minutes, far and away a franchise record.
The special teams lived up to its name in Friday’s game, with North Iowa racking up three goals on four power play opportunities. The Steel came up shy on both of their power play chances, pushing the Bulls’ run to 27 straight successful penalty kills. In fact, the last time North Iowa allowed a power play goal, it was Keegan Bauman’s overtime winner in the last meeting in New Ulm over Thanksgiving weekend.
Lucas Wahlin made his return from the North American Hockey League’s Jamestown Rebels on Friday, and quickly made up for lost time. After six weeks away from the team, Wahlin got loose on a breakaway and slid one in under New Ulm newcomer Igor Samokhvalov just 5:14 into the contest to put North Iowa in front.
“It felt good to be back,” said Wahlin. “It felt great to score that goal right away, and bury another one right after. It’s good to get some points.”
That was the last even-strength goal for a while for North Iowa – with just 2:08 remaining in the first period, a toss from Callahan Nauss just inside the blue line caught a piece of Carter Eha’s stick in front of the net, and Eha’s tip was just enough to beat Samokhvalov and push the lead to 2-0 less than a minute into the Bulls’ second power play of the night.
A slashing call to Mason Enright just past the six-minute mark of the second period yielded dividends much more quickly – just 13 seconds into the power play, Matt Dahlseide’s cycling pass found Harrison Stewart on the left wing, and his slap shot rang off the inside of the iron and found the back of the net for a 3-0 Bulls lead.
The final North Iowa power play of the night almost slipped by, but Justin Daly was able to slide in a five-hole marker with just two seconds remaining on a tripping minor to Joey Gimberlin, and the Bulls pushed their lead to 4-0 just past the halfway point of the contest.
Wahlin landed back on the score sheet just 1:13 into the third period, tapping one in underneath the cross bar on a red-hot pass to the front of the net from Dahlseide. Nick Bowlin took the elevator to the top level for his goal with just 1:01 to go, picking the top corner to beat Samokhvalov for the Bulls’ final goal of the night. The Steel made their last shot on goal count, though, with Nick Wieben slapping a faceoff to the right of Evan Babekuhl into the back of the net with 13.6 seconds to go.
Babekuhl picked up his ninth win of the season, making 25 saves on 26 Steel shots. Samokhvavlov made 38 saves, starting his time with New Ulm in the loss column. The Bulls ran their record to 26-4-2-0 with the victory, while the Steel fell into a tie with Alexandria for third place in the NA3HL’s West Division at 14-11-2-1.
With the Steel idle, the Bulls can push Alexandria back into fourth place by themselves when the two teams meet up on Saturday night at the Runestone Community Center. The opening puck drop is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. North Iowa returns to the Mason City Arena next weekend as the arch-rival Granite City Lumberjacks make their first visit to the team’s new downtown facility.
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North Iowa 2 2 2 – 6
New Ulm 0 0 1 – 1
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Wahlin 17 (Nauss, Petronack), 5:14. 2, North Iowa, Eha 4 (Nauss, Stewart), 17:52 (PP). Penalties-Finn Num (hooking-minor), 9:15; Zowin Num (slashing-minor), 17:08.
2nd Period-3, North Iowa, Stewart 8 (Dahlseide, Daly), 6:21 (PP). 4, North Iowa, Daly 10 (Petronack, Wahlin), 10:18 (PP). Penalties-Enright Num (slashing-minor), 6:08; Gimberlin Num (tripping-minor), 8:20; Aguilera Nio (high sticking-minor), 14:29.
3rd Period-5, North Iowa, Wahlin 18 (Dahlseide, Daly), 1:13. 6, North Iowa, Bowlin 10 (Roo, Sullivan), 18:59. 7, New Ulm, Wieben 8 19:47. Penalties-Aguilera Nio (high sticking-minor), 10:12; Wagner Nio (roughing-minor), 15:36; Savelkoul Num (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct-10 minute misconduct), 15:36.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 17-14-13-44. New Ulm 10-5-11-26.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 3 / 4; New Ulm 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 9-1-0-0 (26 shots-25 saves). New Ulm, Samokhvalov 0-1-0-0 (44 shots-38 saves).
Linesmen-Andrew Bartholomay, Dana Naylor.