Sweet Sixteen Equals Series Sweep

Post Game Report 3-18

ROCHESTER, Minn. – During the 2015-16 season, the North Iowa Bulls and Rochester Ice Hawks met up six times in the regular season, with the Bulls winning each game. Those victories were followed by a first-round playoff series in which the Bulls coolly dispatched their neighbors to the north with dominant wins on back-to-back nights.

Not much changed in the 2016-17 season series, with the defending Silver Cup national champs putting away the Ice Hawks on their home ice Saturday night by an 8-0 count. Rochester’s season ends with a total record of 10-38-1, while the Bulls continue on to face either the La Crosse Freeze or the Wisconsin Whalers in the NA3HL Central Division finals.

Marshall Barnes (Edina, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) won a footrace up the left wing and dragged in the opening goal at 6:51 of the first period, beating Drew Schenkenberg, who came on in relief in Friday’s 7-1 Ice Hawks loss.

The power play was a major factor in North Iowa’s success on Saturday – with just over four minutes to go in the first period and 30 seconds gone on Trevor Timm’s interference penalty, an initial shot from Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) was blocked in front of the net, but a quick toss to Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) led to a tap-in and a 2-0 lead. The tally went to 3-0 with just 19 seconds remaining in the first period on a textbook give-and-go play between Tyler Bump (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) and Braxton Collins (Eau Claire, Wis./Coulee Region Chill).

After a Friday night game in which North Iowa scored four goals and went to the third with a 7-0 lead, history almost repeated itself in Saturday’s tilt. A pass off the left-wing wall from Barnes caught Owen Larson (Minneapolis, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) coming into the offensive zone for a quick snap and a goal at 4:02 of the second period.

Another give-and-go led to Mitch Dolter‘s (Faribault, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary’s) tally at 7:12 of the period, and Tom Reilly (Maplewood, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) capitalized on a 4-on-4 chance with 8:05 remaining in the second to build the lead to six goals. That was as far as the Bulls got before the break, but the shots-on-goal margin did balloon to 39-10 heading to the final 20 minutes. Reilly’s goal was the first to come against Bailey Schmitz, who came into the game after Dolter’s goal.

Unlike the third period of Friday’s game, though, North Iowa added a bit of gas to the fire in the third period, with a one-timer from Collins in the slot at 8:53 and a rebound goal from Horka Sekesi (Munich, Germany/Granite City Lumberjacks) with 3:08 to go in the game. Sekesi’s goal came on North Iowa’s final power play of the night, sparked by Alex Tarr’s fighting and instigator penalties with 6:05 remaining.

Drew Scites (Plymouth, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) was seldom tested by the Ice Hawks’ offense, earning his first shutout as a North Iowa Bull with just 14 saves. After starting the season 1-3-0 in his first five appearances, Scites has caught fire with wins in seven of his last eight games. Schmitz took the loss, playing just under half the contest and stopping just 20 of the 25 shots that he saw.

After a Friday night game in which six different players notched goals, all eight markers for North Iowa on Saturday were scored by different players. 10 different players have tallied goals over the last two games for the Bulls, and 16 different players posted at least one point over the weekend against Rochester. Bump continued his torrid offensive streak on Saturday night, registering a goal in his fifth straight game. North Iowa racked up 62 shots in the game, finishing the night with a 23-4 margin in the final period and hoping to send a message to opposing teams as the Silver Cup playoffs progress.

“They’d better be prepared for us,” said Sekesi. “We just outworked them in their zone [tonight], and it all started in our zone. We got pucks up [the ice] quick and got the pucks deep, and it worked out for us.”

Friday’s game is set for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff at the North Iowa Ice Arena in Mason City, and may be the final home game of the season for the Bulls. The opponent for that game will be determined Sunday afternoon at the Green Island Ice Arena in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with the winning team advancing to face the Bulls for the division title and the Silver Cup tournament slot. All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV – Bulls home games and select road games are also audio-streamed on Mixlr.