La CROSSE, Wis. – There was plenty of roster movement for the North Iowa Bulls ahead of their weekend series at the La Crosse Freeze. Bryceton Butkiewicz (Kettle River, Minn./Minnesota Wilderness) left the team for the weekend to join the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness for the league’s Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, and Sean Mallonee (Kennewick, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) announced Friday afternoon through social media that he would be leaving the team to pursue his college hockey options.
A new face from the Austin Bruins more than made up the difference, as Dominic Skrelja (South Lyon, Mich./Honeybaked U18) posted a hat trick in his Bulls debut to help North Iowa pick up a 6-2 win over their hosts. A quick exchange at the end of the first period saw Caleb Beversdof get the Freeze on the board with 2:29 left in the opening period, followed by a quick strike from Cameron Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace) just 53 seconds later to send the game to the second period deadlocked at one.
Alex Timm (Sand Creek, Wis./Northwest Icemen) buried his first goal as a Bull at the 32-second mark of the second period, but the lead would disappear at 7:25 of the period on Laudon Poellinger’s first tally with the Freeze. Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) got the lead back with 4:32 remaining in the second period, but with two ties already in the books, it was anybody’s guess which way the game might go from there.
That’s when Skrelja got to work – the insurance tally came less than a minute later to send the game to the third period with the Bulls on top, 4-2. After scoring goals earlier in the game, Beversdof picked up an interference minor just over a minute into the third period and Poellinger was dinged for hooking at 5:58 of the period.
Skrelja would make La Crosse pay for both penalties, with a pair of power-play goals in the first seven minutes of the third period to give the Bulls a four-goal margin with which to close the game.
For all the effort the North Iowa power-play unit put in, the penalty-killing lines shone just as bright, killing off each of the six Freeze advantages on the evening. Veteran La Crosse goalie William Graves never got much of a break, facing 44 shots in the loss – Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans) picked up his second win in as many weekends, stopping 23 of the 25 shots against him.
Dating back to last season’s Silver Cup tournament, the Bulls have won five in a row, and they’ll look to make it six straight when the two teams square off against each other again Saturday night in La Crosse. The opening faceoff at the Green Island Ice Arena is set for 7 p.m.