MASON CITY, Iowa – With three games in three days against bruising Central Division competition, the word of the day for the North Iowa Bulls is “pace”…as in, “pace yourself.” North Iowa controlled the pace in Thursday’s game against the St. Cloud Norsemen, but the special teams became an especially large part of the action as the Norsemen snatched a 4-2 victory at the Mason City Arena.
A four-minute double-minor for a high stick against Peyton Hanson gave North Iowa its first power play chance of the evening, but a turnover on a clearing attempt led to the game’s first goal. Blake Mesenburg hauled in the chance along the right wing, roping it past Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) and giving the Norsemen a 1-0 lead 4:27 into the game.
The next power play went to St. Cloud, on a hooking call to Joey Potter (Pittsburgh, Pa./Twin City Thunder) with just 21 seconds remaining in the period. Ryan O’Neill struck for a 2-0 Norsemen lead at the 47-second mark, rattling a shot just underneath the crossbar to double the advantage.
The game’s only 5-on-5 goal came at the 10:43 mark, when Brett Morich’s (Phoenix, Ariz./Jamestown Rebels) shot from the left wing was blocked to the right circle, where Casey Roepke (Erin, Wis./Lincoln Stars) snapped a shot past a well-screened Tomas Bolo to trim the lead to 2-1.
A tripping call against Jackson Bisson at 11:04 put North Iowa up a man with a chance to tie the game, and Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Mason City Toros) delivered with his first NAHL marker halfway through the power play after Dylan Gajewski (Woodhaven, Mich./Austin Bruins) fed the puck through the slot. Campion got Bolo to commit to his right, dragging the puck across the mouth of the net before depositing it to wipe out the St. Cloud lead.
A high cross-check from Greg Japchen (Doylestown, Pa./Amarillo Bulls) on Norsemen forward Blake Perbix gave the visitors the opening they needed to grab the momentum back – Japchen picked up a five-minute major for the hit and was ejected from the game, and St. Cloud took the lead for good just 29 seconds later when Brandon Lajoie slipped a shot through from the left-wing circle. Perbix would come back to clinch the win with an empty-net goal at 18:27 of the third, sealing the game with a shot from the top of the slot.
“It definitely feels good to get the monkey off the back,” said Campion. “It’s a bummer that we didn’t get our two points – that’s the end goal. It’s something moving forward from here, though.”
O’Neill and Perbix had the only multi-point games of the night, each posting a goal and two assists. Bolo made 30 saves to earn his 13th win of the season, moving the Norsemen to 19-13-0-1 for the season, while Garvey made 25 saves on 28 St. Cloud shots as the Bulls dropped to 17-14-1-4. St. Cloud came into the night with the league’s lowest-ranked power play unit on the road, but scored on both of their opportunities, while North Iowa registered a 1-for-3 night of its own.
Roepke scored two goals last season with the Amarillo Bulls, and notched two other NAHL goals as a member of the Janesville Jets during the 2019-20 campaign, making Thursday’s his fifth in his junior career. Campion’s goal was far from his first as a North Iowa Bull, but all of his previous 16 markers in a Bulls uniform came at the NA3HL level. With 22 goals and 34 assists, he remains the Mason City Toros’ second-leading scorer despite not appearing in a Toros game since December 22.
North Iowa hits the road for two pivotal games this weekend against the Aberdeen Wings, traveling to the Dakotas for the third time in as many weeks. The opening puck drop Friday and Saturday night at the Odde Ice Center in Aberdeen, South Dakota is slated for 7:15 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV Sponsored by Dakota Fix Shelter Insurance, and Mixlr.
The Bulls return home for a rivalry tilt against the Austin Bruins on Friday, February 5 – to purchase advance tickets to that game or any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, call 641-423-4625 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.
St. Cloud 1 1 2 – 4
North Iowa 0 2 0 – 2
1st Period-1, St. Cloud, Mesenburg 14 4:27 (SH). Penalties-Hanson Stn (high sticking-double minor), 1:18; Potter Nio (hooking-minor), 19:39.
2nd Period-2, St. Cloud, O’Neill 16 (Murr, Perbix), 0:47 (PP). 3, North Iowa, Roepke 1 (Morich, LaRusso), 10:43. 4, North Iowa, Campion 1 (Gajewski), 12:03 (PP). Penalties-Bisson Stn (tripping-minor), 11:04.
3rd Period-5, St. Cloud, Lajoie 14 (Perbix, O’Neill), 4:56 (PP). 6, St. Cloud, Perbix 13 (O’Neill, Young), 18:27. Penalties-Japchen Nio (cross checking-gm), 4:27; Lajoie Stn (tripping-minor), 8:32.
Shots on Goal-St. Cloud 9-9-11-29. North Iowa 7-15-10-32.
Power Play Opportunities-St. Cloud 2 / 2; North Iowa 1 / 3.
Goalies-St. Cloud, Bolo 13-6-0-0 (32 shots-30 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 12-10-1-4 (28 shots-25 saves).
Linesmen-Brandon Grillo, Quinn Schafer.