SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – For all the impact that the special teams had on Friday night’s game between the North Iowa Bulls and Granite City Lumberjacks, the game-winning goal came just five seconds short of adding yet another power play tally to the evening’s total.
North Iowa went 2-for-4 on the power play, and Granite City went 3-for-4, but the Bulls earned the 5-4 win in overtime thanks to a shot from Harrison Stewart (Rockford, Ill./Amarillo Bulls), as the Lumberjacks were getting their fourth man into position on the ice.
Just 4:03 into the contest, North Iowa grabbed the first lead, with Lucas Wahlin (Woodbury, Minn./Hill-Murray H.S.) tossing one into the net from the right wing right after a faceoff. Leads were hard to hold for both sides, however – Granite City got its first chance on a power play, following a slashing call against Carter Wagner (Lino Lakes, Minn./Odessa Jackalopes). At the 6:26 mark, Blake Spetz struck, taking a backdoor feed from Jonah Jangula and putting it into the upper half of the net.
The Lumberjacks grabbed the lead just ahead of the eight-minute mark, when Bailey Sommers snuck into the slot to intercept a pass, and popped one into the top shelf to make it a 2-1 game. With 9:09 left in the first period, though, the Bulls got their equalizer, with Jordan Roo (Champlin, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) deflecting in a toss from Carter Eha (Bloomington, Minn./Jamestown Rebels) at the right point.
The Bulls found themselves behind a man at the 7:31 mark of the second period, with a checking-from-behind call ending Wagner’s night. North Iowa had nearly killed off the entire five-minute major, before a toss from Kearby Larson right off of another faceoff caught part of Sommers’s stick along the way and deflected in to make it a 3-2 game.
The lead vanished ahead of the end of the period, though – with the net already slightly off the moorings, Granite City’s Jacob Schuldt shoved it out of position to draw the attention of the officials. Instead, their attention went straight to Schuldt, who picked up a delay-of-game penalty. Justin Daly (Delano, Minn./Kenai River Brown Bears) fed Wahlin in the left-wing circle, whose one-timer beat Huber with 57 seconds remaining to tie it at 3-3.
At 5:40 of the third period, the lead finally landed back in North Iowa’s hands – with Ryan Pogue in the box on a slashing minor, Matt Dahlseide (Woodbury, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) let fly a half-speed slap shot over the left shoulder of Huber, giving the Bulls the 4-3 advantage.
It took a tripping minor on Wahlin to give the Lumberjacks their next chance – with three seconds left on a 4-on-3 and 27 seconds left on the power play, Tal Halliday found Carson Simon deep in the right-wing circle, and his one-timer beat Evan Babekuhl (Long Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) for the tying marker with 3:41 to go.
60 minutes wasn’t enough to decide the contest, but it didn’t take long into the extra session – with the Lumberjacks still getting in position at the end of a slashing penalty against Larson, Wahlin found Stewart in the slot from below the goal line, and his quick snap beat Huber on the glove side for the winning tally just 44 seconds into overtime.
“They had a good kill on that one,” said Stewart. “We had a couple of opportunities, but couldn’t get it in. We just got it down low, and [Lucas] took it wide with his speed. He came around the net and found me backdoor, and I was able to shoot it through a screen.”
It was the first game between the teams to see overtime since a 3-2 Lumberjacks win last season in Mason City, and the Bulls’ first overtime win against Granite City since November of 2016, a shootout victory in Sauk Rapids.
Wahlin extended his team goal-scoring lead with his 29th and 30th of the season, matching Peter Verstegen’s team high from last season. He became the 11th player in Bulls history to notch 30 goals in a season, on a night where Sommers passed former SUNY-Brockport captain Aiden Verbeke as the all-time goal-scoring leader in Lumberjacks history.
Babekuhl made 25 saves to run his record to 15-2 on the season, and earn his fifth consecutive win. Huber made 21 saves in the loss, his third straight defeat. Granite City heads into Saturday’s regular-season finale with losses in five of their last six, while the Bulls’ seventh win in a row matches a season-high.
North Iowa’s record now stands at 37-7-2-0 on the year, and must win Saturday’s game to take the season series outright, though any win will accomplish that feat. Granite City will bring a 33-12-1-0 mark into Saturday’s contest, with a puck drop scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Live streaming coverage is available exclusively on HockeyTV.
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.
North Iowa 2 1 1 1 – 5
Granite City 2 1 1 0 – 4
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Wahlin 29 (Dahlseide), 4:03. 2, Granite City, Spetz 21 (Jangula, Halliday), 6:26 (PP). 3, Granite City, Sommers 21 7:59. 4, North Iowa, Roo 25 (Eha, Stewart), 10:51. Penalties-Wagner Nio (slashing-minor), 5:14.
2nd Period-5, Granite City, Sommers 22 (Larson), 12:11 (PP). 6, North Iowa, Wahlin 30 (Bowlin, Daly), 19:03 (PP). Penalties-Wagner Nio (checking from behind-major, checking from behind-gm), 7:31; Fagerlee Nio (unsportsmanlike conduct-minor), 15:21; Schuldt Gcy (delay of game-minor), 17:51.
3rd Period-7, North Iowa, Dahlseide 25 (Stewart, Bowlin), 5:40 (PP). 8, Granite City, Simon 24 (Halliday, Pogue), 16:19 (PP). Penalties-Pogue Gcy (slashing-minor), 4:58; Bronson Gcy (roughing-minor), 8:17; Nauss Nio (holding-minor), 14:22; Jangula Gcy (boarding-minor), 14:22; Wahlin Nio (tripping-minor), 14:46; Larson Gcy (slashing-minor), 18:39.
OT Period-9, North Iowa, Stewart 9 (Wahlin, Dahlseide), 0:44. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 9-7-8-2-26. Granite City 14-9-5-1-29.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 2 / 4; Granite City 3 / 4.
Goalies-North Iowa, Babekuhl 15-2-0-0 (29 shots-25 saves). Granite City, Huber 15-7-1-0 (26 shots-21 saves).
Linesmen-Jacob Paugh, Daniel Van Loon.