BISMARCK, N.D. – North Iowa rattled off back-to-back first-period goals to open Friday night’s North American Hockey League Central Division game, but the Bismarck Bobcats battled back to score six straight goals Friday night, taking their sixth straight win by a 6-2 final score. The game’s only power play goal sparked the run, barely a minute-and-a-half after North Iowa took its biggest lead of the game.
The Bulls grabbed the game’s first lead with a one-timer from Brett Morich (Phoenix, Ariz./Jamestown Rebels) at 10:39 of the first period, scoring off of a setup pass from Tyler Braccini (Buffalo, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) below the goal line for his second Friday night tally in as many weeks. Ryder Brophy (Franklin Park, Pa./Esmark Stars U18) poked the puck to Braccini from in front of the net before Braccini set up behind the cage, giving him the secondary assist and his first point as a Bull.
Jack Mesic (Plymouth, Mich./Amarillo Bulls) put North Iowa up by a pair just 1:41 later, snapping a shot past Oskar Spinnars Nordin from atop the left-wing faceoff circle for the 2-0 advantage. That was the last time the Bulls would reach the scoreboard – a holding penalty to Sean Vlasich (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Amarillo Bulls) at 13:04 of the period put the Bobcats on their first power play of the night, and Ryan Taylor responded by halving the lead at the 13:57 mark, firing a one-timer on the left wing past Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls).
The shots-on-goal count sat at 10-8 in the Bobcats’ favor after one period, but Bismarck controlled the tempo in the second period, opening up an 18-7 margin over the middle 20 minutes. The tying tally came from Drew Holt at 8:11 of the second period, on a shot from just inside the left-wing circle, and the go-ahead tally hit the back of the net with 6:02 left in the period on a one-timer from Jake McLean that sneaked past Garvey on his glove side.
The Bobcats got the momentum boost they were hunting for with 38 seconds remaining in the period, just two seconds after the end of a power play on a hooking call against Mesic. Michael Neumeier’s shot from just inside the blue line clipped Patrick Johnson in front, sending Bismarck in front by two goals ahead of the final period.
Bismarck added on two more times in the final minutes, with Adam Pietila springing a pass ahead that tied Brandon Reller into the North Iowa zone – Reller collected the puck just inside the blue line and deposited it in the Bulls’ net for the 5-2 lead with 14:21 remaining. Taylor’s second goal capped the scoring with 7:32 remaining, when McLean found him for a forehand shot after entering North Iowa’s zone down the left wing.
Taylor tacked on an assist to go with his two goals, while McLean picked up two helpers plus his eventual game-winner. Owen Michaels had two assists in the game for the Bobcats as well.
Each team picked up three chances on the power play, but Taylor’s first-period goal was the only successful power play chance for either team in the game. Garvey made 29 saves in taking the loss, dropping to 14-15-1-4 for the season. Spinnars Nordin went 18-for-20, earning his 12th win of the season, with six of those coming against the Bulls.
The Bobcats remain one of the NAHL’s hottest teams, and also earned their fourth straight Friday win over the Bulls after North Iowa earned the win in the first-ever meeting between the two on November 5. Bismarck bumped its record to 21-23-1-2 with the win, while North Iowa fell to 21-20-2-4. Just three points now separate the teams, while North Iowa also finds itself just three points back of the Central Division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
The Bulls will look to widen the gulf between them and Bismarck once again on Saturday, when the teams get together for their final regular-season meeting at the V.F.W. Sports Center this season. The opening puck drop between the teams is slated for 7:15 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Presented by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance and Mixlr.
North Iowa returns home on Friday, March 11 for its “Reading Stampede” night against the Austin Bruins, with an in-game book exchange and a raffle for a Dr. Seuss collection, to celebrate National Reading Month and the NAHL’s “Read to Succeed” initiative. To purchase advance tickets to 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 team’s social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 2 0 0 – 2
Bismarck 1 3 2 – 6
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Morich 7 (Braccini, Brophy), 10:39. 2, North Iowa, Mesic 8 (Scott), 12:20. 3, Bismarck, Taylor 4 (Michaels, McLean), 13:57 (PP). Penalties-Vlasich Nio (holding-minor), 13:04; Neumeier Bis (tripping-minor), 14:17; Mexico Nio (hooking-minor), 18:01.
2nd Period-4, Bismarck, Holt 10 (Shepler, Ziskie), 8:11. 5, Bismarck, McLean 13 (Taylor, Troumbly), 13:58. 6, Bismarck, Johnson 12 (Neumeier, Rudrud), 19:22. Penalties-Garvey Nio (high sticking-minor), 14:11; Mitchell Bis (roughing-minor), 14:11; Mesic Nio (hooking-minor), 17:20.
3rd Period-7, Bismarck, Reller 6 (Pietila, Michaels), 5:39. 8, Bismarck, Taylor 5 (McLean, Roelofs), 12:28. Penalties-Ziskie Bis (tripping-minor), 1:05; Shepler Bis (hooking-minor), 15:50.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 8-7-5-20. Bismarck 11-17-7-35.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 4; Bismarck 1 / 3.
Goalies-North Iowa, Garvey 14-15-1-4 (35 shots-29 saves). Bismarck, Spinnars Nordin 13-6-0-1 (20 shots-18 saves).
Linesmen-Reilly Hickey, Kyle Stephens.