MASON CITY, Iowa – North Iowa needed a win Saturday night against old rival Granite City in order to finish a six-game stretch unblemished against its old competition from the West Division. The Bulls would have to settle for a single point against the Lumberjacks, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to end a seven-game overall winning streak, and a nine-game unbeaten run at home.
North Iowa got out to a rip-roaring start, posting 11 of the game’s first 12 shots on goal and 13 of the first 16. With a 15-game point streak in hand, Cameron Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) wasted no time putting the Bulls in front on a rebound goal at 5:51 of the opening period, scoring immediately after a wraparound try from Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls).
Grant Troumbly would tie the game for Granite City, putting one away from low in the slot in front of Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) with 8:37 remaining. That goal would send the game to its first intermission at a 1-1 tie.
A couple of radar-guided shots would give North Iowa a 3-1 lead just over halfway through the second period. Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) sent a long blast past David Mulligan from above the left faceoff circle just 3:42 into the second period to get the lead back in the Bulls’ hands. Jared Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./Austin Bruins) made his scoring debut for the Bulls at the 10:23 mark of the period, scoring his insurance goal from the right faceoff circle.
The lead wouldn’t stand to see the third period, though – the Lumberjacks would tie the contest on two goals in the final 3:37 before the break. Owen Sikich would pick up his first goal of the game at 16:23 of the second period, turning and ripping one past Cain from the right side to cut the lead to 3-2.
Seth Towers would pound one in with just 1:09 remaining in the second period to tie the game. That goal was the only special-teams marker for Granite City, just four seconds before the end of Josh Arnold‘s (Roseville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) holding penalty in the midst of a Lumberjacks 5-on-3.
A scoreless third period saw North Iowa out-shoot the Lumberjacks 13-5, and back-to-back power-play chances for the Bulls would go unconverted in the opening six minutes. The Bulls crowd made its agitation known when referee Brian Hankes called a minor penalty for slashing on Blackowiak with just 1:17 to go in regulation, and for head contact on Blackowiak’s initial rush out of the box just 50 seconds into the extra session.
It wouldn’t be a power-play goal but an even-strength 4-on-4 goal that would allow the Lumberjacks to take the extra point – Sikich made one last return to the score sheet, pushing one underneath Cain and into the net after a rush up the left wing by Braden Altena.
“The early advantages we had in the game, we didn’t capitalize by putting pucks in the net,” said head coach Todd Sanden.
Each team left the ice with a power-play goal on Saturday night, but the Lumberjacks were responsible for all four shots on goal in the extra session. Cain made 30 saves on 34 shots, dropping to 1-3 in bonus hockey. Mulligan picked up his fifth win of the year with 38 saves on 41 North Iowa chances.
Bump would finish with a game-high three points, assisting on all three Bulls goals in the game. Connor Clemons (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) would finish without a goal for the first time in six outings, but ran his current point streak to six games with an assist on Fagerlee’s opening tally.
Granite City’s win also forced the Bulls to cede first place in the Central Division to the La Crosse Freeze, although North Iowa still has a better winning percentage with three games in hand. The Bulls dominated both head-to-head matchups and will catch up with the Freeze next on Jan. 12 and 13. Despite the loss, Sanden’s team has earned points in 18 straight games, either through wins or overtime and shootout losses.
The Bulls continue their schedule with a return to divisional play and a weekend home-and-home against the Rochester Ice Hawks on Friday and Saturday. Friday’s visit to the Rochester Recreation Center is scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop, and Saturday’s contest gets underway at the North Iowa Ice Arena at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s action features Camo Night, with a turkey bowling contest for a free Thanksgiving dinner. The winner of our chuck-a-puck contest Saturday night will win a Thanksgiving turkey to go along with a cash prize.
All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV, and Saturday’s home game against the Ice Hawks will also be audio-streamed for free on Mixlr. For advance tickets to Saturday night’s contest, or any other North Iowa home game, click here.