BLAINE, Minn. – The Bulls weren’t about to head into the Christmas break trying to wash a sour taste out of their mouths from the NA3HL Showcase. They also weren’t about to leave a poor first impression with the New England Stars in the first-ever meeting between the teams. Todd Sanden’s bunch won’t have to worry about that after blitzing the Stars with 48 shots on Sunday morning in an 8-1 rout at the Schwan Super Rink.
In an odd twist, the Bulls opened the morning up a man after Chris Benschneider was penalized for crossing the red line during the teams’ warmup session. Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./Dallas Stars Elite) made the Stars pay for that early miscue with a power-play tally just 1:13 into the contest, and North Iowa didn’t slow down from there. Connor Clemons‘s (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) posted a pair of goals in the opening stanza and Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary’s) added one with 1:40 left on the clock for a 4-0 lead at the first intermission.
Markers from Lucas McKinnon (Mason City, Iowa/Appleton United H.S.) and Owen Larson (Minneapolis, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) just 69 seconds apart extended the lead late in the second period before Brendan Miller broke through for New England’s only goal at the 4:55 mark of the third period. Before the end of the day, though, Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) had added his 20th goal to a team-best 41 assists, and Caylen Dyni‘s (Fond Du Lac, Wis./Fond Du Lac H.S.) 7th goal of the season capped the scoring with 8:13 to play.
R.J. Pluhar (Glen Carbon, Ill./Aberdeen Wings) stopped 21 of the Stars’ 22 shots to stay unbeaten on his rookie NA3HL campaign, while Greg Moon made 40 stops to take the loss. The Bulls head into the holidays at 23-4-1, 23 points ahead of second-place La Crosse in the Central Division standings with a game in hand for the Freeze.
The entire league is off until Dec. 29, when St. Louis and Cincinnati finish their suspended game from Nov. 27. The Bulls and most of the other 47 teams on the circuit return on Friday, Dec. 30, when North Iowa and Rochester face off to begin a home-and-home set. The opening faceoff in Friday’s contest at the North Iowa Ice Arena is set for 7:30 p.m. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – all Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed on Mixlr.