ROCHESTER, Minn. – The North Iowa Bulls had their chances Friday night against the Rochester Grizzlies – in fact, they had a lot of them. North Iowa put 47 shots on Rochester goaltender Nick Bucklin, but two third-period goals for the Grizzlies helped to open up the race for home-ice in the NA3HL West Division in a 4-1 Rochester win.
Vladislav Sorokin added to his team lead with the Grizzlies’ first two goals, starting with a rush up the right wing midway through the first period. At 10:26 of the first period, the red light made its first appearance of the game, with Sorokin dangling the puck past Hank Nagel (Mound, Minn./Mound-Westonka H.S.) and chipping it off the ceiling of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Sorokin put another one on the scoreboard at 11:02 of the second period, with Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede 18U) knocking down a one-timer from his left. The ensuing scramble, though, saw Sorokin knock the puck in just before Skinner fell into the net and the net came off its moorings.
The Bulls got one back with 6:29 left in the middle stanza, though, as a 2-on-2 opportunity became a 3-on-2 chance. That third player was Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls), who zapped one past Bucklin on the secondary break to cut the lead back to 2-1.
After allowing 25 shots in the second period, Rochester made its move in the third. Richard Szabo’s backdoor feed found Lucas Newman with 10:56 to go to make it a 3-1 game, and Erik Evans scored on a long rebound with 5:36 remaining to push the Bulls out of range for a comeback.
The Bulls fell to 29-11-2-0 with the loss as Skinner made 23 saves. The loss brought an end to a personal four-game winning streak and a five-game North Iowa run.
Rochester climbs to 27-14-1-0 with the victory, and moves to within five points of North Iowa with five games to go in the regular season. North Iowa cannot lock Rochester out of home ice in the opening round with a win Saturday night, but a regulation win would cut the magic number to a single point.
The Bulls and Grizzlies will get together Saturday night in Mason City in the final regular-season meeting this season. The opening puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa begins its season-ending five-game homestand Saturday night with “Support Your School Night” – the Bulls will raffle off a laptop to one lucky student, and the school with the most students in attendance wins recess with the Bulls. Students will be admitted free, with $5 admission for college students. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
North Iowa 0 1 0 – 1
Rochester 1 1 2 – 4
1st Period-1, Rochester, Sorokin 35 (Bacon), 10:26. Penalties-Fagerlee Nio (checking from behind-major, checking from behind-gm), 13:41.
2nd Period-2, Rochester, Sorokin 36 (Newman), 11:02. 3, North Iowa, Verstegen 29 (Blackowiak, Bogach), 13:31. Penalties-Fodstad Roc (tripping-minor), 2:47; Carlson Nio (hooking-minor), 11:10; Hart Roc (slashing-minor), 15:01.
3rd Period-4, Rochester, Newman 12 (Szabo, Sorokin), 9:04. 5, Rochester, Evans 3 (Newman, Olson), 14:24. Penalties-Wagner Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 13:13; Sorokin Roc (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 13:13; Hall Roc (high sticking-minor), 17:26.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 8-19-14-41. Rochester 9-7-11-27.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 0 / 3; Rochester 0 / 2.
Goalies-North Iowa, Skinner 15-5-2-0 (27 shots-23 saves). Rochester, Bucklin 17-6-1-0 (41 shots-40 saves).
Linesmen-Grant Crowell, Andrew Bartholomay.