MASON CITY, Iowa – After taking a loss on Friday night and dropping out of first place in the NA3HL’s West Division, the Bulls had a chance to retake the top spot in the division with a win over the Granite City Lumberjacks on Saturday.
A little extra muscle and a whole lot of hustle put the Bulls back on top, with North Iowa carrying a 2-0 win out of the weekend. It was the first time since the 2015-16 regular season that North Iowa has shut out the Lumberjacks – that year, the Bulls notched two wins over Granite City en route to their most recent national championship.
The Bulls’ penalty-killing unit was exceptional again, killing off all five of Granite City’s man-advantages in the contest, including a five-minute charging call against Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) in the third period. Granite City killed two of the Bulls’ three chances with the extra man.
The first of those was the one that they did not kill – it was costly, and it happened quickly. Off of a one-timer high in the zone from Justin Daly (Delano, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears), a long rebound kicked out to Wahlin, who faked the putback and walked it in front of the net before slipping the puck in under Nate Johnston with 3:47 remaining in the first period.
Granite City came up empty on two power play chances in the second period, and the Bulls notched another one with the extra attacker early in the third. With a penalty on hold against Josh Baker for tripping, Jac Triemert (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury H.S.) grabbed the puck just above the goal line and whipped it toward the net. The tough-angle try beat Johnston low at the 2:57 mark of the third period for the 2-0 lead.
“Wahlin got the puck deep for us. He was forechecking pretty hard,” said Triemert. “He got tripped, and the puck squirted to me in the corner. I just ripped it on net and it went in.”
That shot was one of only three that found the Lumberjacks’ net in the final period. Bailey Huber faced two of them, entering the game after Wahlin’s collision with Johnston just past the five-minute mark of the third period.
Johnston, however, took his first loss of the season after starting the year with 14 straight wins, making 11 saves in the defeat. Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) made 21 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the year and move to 10-2-0-0 on the season.
The Bulls ran their record to 27-5-2-0 on the year, while Granite City fell to 28-6-0-0, sliding two points and a few percentage points behind North Iowa for the top spot in the West. The Bulls’ perfect power play mark moved them past Coulee Region once again for the top penalty-killing spot in the league, and the 36-percent mark on the power play remains in the circuit’s top-five.
New Ulm is the next team to visit the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, with a 7:30 p.m. puck drop next Friday night. Live streaming coverage of that game is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey is always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. To purchase advance tickets to upcoming Bulls home games, call 641-423-4625 or click here.
Granite City 0 0 0 – 0
North Iowa 1 0 1 – 2
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Wahlin 20 (Daly, Stewart), 16:13 (PP). Penalties-Wahlin Nio (hooking-minor), 6:51; Pogue Gcy (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 15:50; Sommers Gcy (boarding-minor), 19:51.
2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Roitman Nio (head contact-minor), 3:39; Green Gcy (roughing-minor), 7:55; Saltness Nio (roughing-minor), 7:55; Pogue Gcy (roughing-minor), 15:43; Eha Nio (holding-minor), 15:43; Petronack Nio (slashing-minor), 17:29.
3rd Period-2, North Iowa, Triemert 6 (Wahlin), 2:57. Penalties-Baker Gcy (tripping-minor), 2:57; Wahlin Nio (charging-major), 5:05; Vercellono Nio (holding-minor), 14:29; Plautz Gcy (holding-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct – 10 minute), 16:46; Helle Gcy (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct – 10 minute), 16:58; Bowlin Nio (roughing-minor, unsportsmanlike conduct – 10 minute), 16:58.
Shots on Goal-Granite City 4-10-7-21. North Iowa 6-6-3-15.
Power Play Opportunities-Granite City 0 / 5; North Iowa 1 / 3.
Goalies-Granite City, Johnston 14-1-0-0 (13 shots-11 saves); Huber 12-4-0-0 (2 shots-2 saves). North Iowa, Babekuhl 10-2-0-0 (21 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Grant Hendrich, Travis Neubeck.