MASON CITY, Iowa – In Sunday night’s third game against the Rochester Grizzlies, Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede 18U) made 31 saves, and after a scoreless first period, Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) broke the scoring seal with a wraparound goal early in the second period to start a three-goal run.
The story of Friday’s West Division Finals opener against the Alexandria Blizzard is not a perfect clone of North Iowa’s semifinal clincher against the Grizzlies, but it definitely felt like that at times. The Bulls put away a 3-1 win over the Alexandria Blizzard Friday evening, putting Alexandria’s back to the wall as the best-of-three series shifts to Minnesota on Saturday.
The Bulls went up 12 shots to nine after the first period, but neither team was able to break through in the opening 20 minutes. Just 24 seconds out of the intermission, though, Studioso again went for the wraparound and hooked the puck past Ville Hyttinen for a 1-0 lead.
12:35 into the second period, North Iowa struck again – Matt Dahlseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) started the action with a toss from the left-wing faceoff circle. After a scramble in front of the net and a touch from Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), Cam Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) shoved the puck past Hyttinen to double the North Iowa cushion.
Just before the midway point of the third, Dahlseide snuck in a sharp-angle try from the bottom of the right-wing circle with 11:46 to play, sending the Bulls ahead 3-0 yet again. A shot block and a fortunate bounce back to Sam Prisbe high in the faceoff circle to Skinner’s left just 31 seconds later, though, gave Prisbe a second shot to get the Blizzard on the board.
Hyttinen made 28 saves, taking his first loss of the postseason after earning both wins against Granite City last weekend. Skinner added on to an 18-win regular season with his third playoff victory in four tries. Fagerlee’s second-period goal was the highlight of a 1-for-3 night on the power play for the Bulls, and Blackowiak finished with a couple of assists of his own.
The win may have been the final home game of the season for the Bulls – or it may not have. A win on home ice for Alexandria on Saturday would send the series back to the “Barn” for a decisive Game 3 on Sunday evening. The winner of this series qualifies for the NA3HL’s Fraser Cup national championship tournament in the Chicago area next week. The opening puck drop at the Runestone Community Center on Saturday evening is scheduled for 7:10 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and free audio streaming on Mixlr.
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Alexandria 0 0 1 – 1
North Iowa 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties
2nd Period-1, North Iowa, Studioso 2 (Bogach, Blackowiak), 0:24. 2, North Iowa, Fagerlee 1 (Dahlseide, Blackowiak), 12:35 (PP). Penalties-Fagerlee Nio (holding-minor), 5:45; Scanlon Alx (cross checking-minor), 8:13; Johnson Alx (checking from behind-minor), 11:51; Petronack Nio (hooking-minor), 15:52; Lehmann Alx (slashing-minor), 16:08.
3rd Period-3, North Iowa, Dahlseide 2 (Petronack, Rozman), 8:14. 4, Alexandria, Prisbe 1 8:45. Penalties-Stewart Nio (holding-minor), 2:26; Strong Alx (roughing-minor), 19:16; Petronack Nio (roughing-minor), 19:16.
Shots on Goal-Alexandria 9-9-14-32. North Iowa 12-9-10-31.
Power Play Opportunities-Alexandria 0 / 3; North Iowa 1 / 3.
Goalies-Alexandria, Hyttinen (31 shots-28 saves). North Iowa, Skinner (32 shots-31 saves).
Referees-Robert Babcock IV.
Linesmen-Kendall Hanley, Daniel Van Loon.