Springfield Finishes Strong For 6-3 Win At Bulls

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MASON CITY, Iowa – The North Iowa Bulls celebrated “Naughty and Nice” weekend on Friday and Saturday, starting with a visit from the Grinch on Friday and following it up with a stop from Santa Claus on Saturday.

Turns out jolly old St. Nick snuck into the Mason City Arena early with a couple of points on Friday night, and the Grinch laid in wait to make one more impact on the series on Saturday.

The Bulls struck first in Saturday’s matchup, but the Springfield Jr. Blues closed out the night with three unanswered goals, ending North Iowa’s 2021 home slate with a 6-3 loss.

North Iowa immediately hopped on the power play with a tripping minor against Noah Marino just 35 seconds into the game – it wasn’t that one, but the second power play on a high stick from Hagen Moe, that would allow the Bulls to take advantage. Byron Hartley (Philadelphia, Pa./Philly Little Flyers 18U) raced the puck down the left wing and roped a wrist shot over Ethan Roberts’s left shoulder at 8:23 of the period to give North Iowa the 1-0 advantage.

That was the only lead the Bulls enjoyed – Springfield grabbed the momentum early in the second period, tying the game at the 1:24 mark when Zach Bade took advantage of a pair of shot blocks to snap the puck past Hunter Garvey (San Diego, Calif./Amarillo Bulls) and tie the game at 1-1. Just 31 seconds later, Garvey kicked aside a right-wing shot from Will Magnuson, but the second chance took an unfortunate bounce to Isaac Keller, who put away the rebound for the 2-1 advantage.

The lead lasted barely a minute – a shot from Casey Roepke (Erin, Wis./Lincoln Stars) at the left point caught Carter Rapalje’s (Burlington, Vt./Amarillo Bulls) stick for a redirect that beat Roberts to tie the game at 2-2. Roberts would exit the game at that point, putting little weight on his right leg on his way off the ice, but would return 10 minutes later.

Aksel Reid held down the fort in the meantime, stopping the only shot North Iowa put against him – when he came back, he had the lead, thanks to a goal from Moe in a scramble on the edge of the Bulls crease at 7:07 of the period.

The teams exchanged goals again late in the period, starting with a North Iowa power play goal at 16:15 – with the Bulls up a man thanks to a hooking call against Connor Smith, Hartley fed Dylan Gajewski (Woodhaven, Mich./Austin Bruins) at the top of the zone for a one-timer, and his blast beat Roberts up high to tie the game at 3-3. 32 seconds later, former North Iowa Bull Carson Jones took advantage of a delayed penalty call to knock home a one-timer from James Callahan and take the lead for good.

Springfield would add two more goals in the third, starting with a shot from Fisher Scott in the back corner of the North Iowa zone – with only his front foot and the puck ahead of the blue line, Scott fired a shot from along the boards and beat Garvey at 4:23 to send the Jr. Blues in front by two. Just seconds into a 4-on-4, Tristan Shewchuk closed the scoring by tossing the puck into an empty North Iowa net from just inside neutral ice above the Bulls’ blue line with 1:48 showing on the third-period clock.

“I feel like they did a lot better than we did down low,” said Hartley. “They maintained the puck down low, and when we got it, they were all over us backchecking through the middle.”

Hartley enjoyed a two-point night, as did Sean Vlasich (Upper Saddle River, N.J./Amarillo Bulls), who had two assists. Moe and Bade had a goal and an assist apiece, while Smith posted two assists of his own. The Bulls’ special teams closed out an outstanding weekend with a 2-for-9 showing on the power play, and held the league’s top power play unit entering the weekend to an 0-for-6 night on Saturday and an 0-for-3 mark the night before.

“We were moving the puck around a lot faster, getting a lot more looks,” said Hartley. “Dylan (Gajewski), with that great shot he has, opened up a lot more space for me to walk down and take my shot.”

Garvey made 20 saves to take his fifth regulation loss of the year as North Iowa dropped back to 14-8-1-2 for the year. Roberts made 24 of 27 stops to earn his 14th win, sending the Jr. Blues to 18-8-1-1 heading out of the weekend.

The 2021 home schedule has been one of transition for the Bulls, playing games at two different levels of the sport. Including North Iowa’s four NA3HL Fraser Cup playoff games this past April, the Bulls closed out the calendar year with a 17-8-2-2 record inside the Mason City Arena, including an 11-3-2-1 mark against NA3HL competition.

The Bulls will play twice in Bismarck next weekend and a New Year’s Eve game at the Austin Bruins before returning to home ice on January 1 against the Bruins. The opening puck drops next Friday and Saturday against the Bobcats are slated for 7:15 p.m. at the VFW Sports Center in Bismarck, North Dakota, with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV and Mixlr.

Tickets are currently on sale for North Iowa’s January 1 home game and all upcoming home games – to purchase advance tickets to any 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.

 

Springfield 0 4 2 – 6
North Iowa 1 2 0 – 3

1st Period-1, North Iowa, Hartley 8 (Vlasich, Japchen), 8:25 (PP). Penalties-Marino Spr (tripping-minor), 0:35; Moe Spr (high sticking-minor), 7:38; Stacey Nio (high sticking-double minor), 9:29; Campion Nio (boarding-minor), 17:44.

2nd Period-2, Springfield, Bade 6 (Smith, Moe), 1:24. 3, Springfield, Keller 2 (Magnuson), 1:55. 4, North Iowa, Rapalje 16 (Roepke), 2:57. 5, Springfield, Moe 10 (Bade, Smith), 7:07. 6, North Iowa, Gajewski 10 (Vlasich, Hartley), 16:15 (PP). 7, Springfield, Boxer 1 (Bradley, Novak), 16:47. Penalties-Bacallao Spr (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 2:23; Gajewski Nio (roughing-minor), 2:23; Gajewski Nio (interference-minor), 9:26; Scott Spr (interference-minor), 10:53; Smith Spr (hooking-minor), 15:13; Braccini Nio (boarding-minor), 16:47; Callahan Spr (hooking-minor), 19:59.

3rd Period-8, Springfield, Scott 1 (Marino), 4:23. 9, Springfield, Novak 2 (Shewchuk), 18:12 (EN). Penalties-Bradley Spr (high sticking-minor), 5:23; Keller Spr (tripping-minor), 10:01; Magnuson Spr (hooking-minor), 11:33; LaRusso Nio (high sticking-double minor), 16:27; Dosan Spr (slashing-minor), 17:54.

Shots on Goal-Springfield 11-10-5-26. North Iowa 7-7-14-28.
Power Play Opportunities-Springfield 0 / 6; North Iowa 2 / 9.
Goalies-Springfield, Roberts 14-5-0-1 (27 shots-24 saves); Reid 0-0-1-0 (1 shots-1 saves). North Iowa, Garvey 10-5-1-2 (25 shots-20 saves).
A-1,207
Referees-Austin O’Rourke.
Linesmen-Jacob Rozenberg, Dylan Sater.