ROCHESTER, Minn. – After dropping a 4-3 decision to defending NA3HL national champion Granite City last Saturday, the Bulls were determined not to start a losing skid against an Ice Hawks team that came into the weekend with 16 losses in 16 meetings all-time in the series.
Not only did North Iowa win their 17th straight in the series – a 7-0 shutout win for Drew Scites (Prior Lake, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) – Cameron Fagerlee (Plymouth, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) continued his incredible point streak to 17 games with a second-period goal.
It was a night of breakthroughs for some hard-working young Bulls – just a game after getting his first-ever junior goal, Jarod Blackowiak (Eden Prairie, Minn./Austin Bruins) decided scoring against Rochester goalie Luke Murphy would be twice as nice, getting the Bulls on the board at 11:42 of the opening period. His goal with 1:18 remaining from Alex Timm (Sand Creek, Wis./Northwest H.S.) and Shane Bernhardson (Apple Valley, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) bookended the scoring in the game.
Tucker Kruse (Woodbury, Minn./Cretin-Derham Hall) hadn’t appeared in a game since scoring his first junior goal two weeks ago against the Alexandria Blizzard – his goal with 1:27 remaining in the first sent the Bulls to the intermission with a 2-0 lead. He would notch a second goal with 12:56 off the clock in the final period, with Brandon Caudill (Lindstrom, Minn./Chisago Lakes H.S.) earning his first assist in a North Iowa uniform.
Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./Oshkosh H.S.) and Connor Clemons (Prior Lake, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) set up Fagerlee’s goal at the 11:42 mark of the second period. After Kruse’s second goal made it 4-0 with just over seven minutes left, Verstegen himself got into the action – his goal with 5:24 remaining pushed the lead to 5-0.
Dan Sandvig (Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville H.S.) nearly had his first goal at the second-period buzzer on Nov. 4 against the Blizzard before a major penalty to Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) would force the goal to be taken off the board. There was no taking away Sandvig’s first junior goal, a power-play goal with 3:35 remaining following Drew Westphal’s checking-from-behind infraction.
Blackowiak’s score in the final 78 seconds capped a night in which every goal went to a first-year North Iowa player. In fact, other than Fagerlee, none of the Bulls who scored had earned more than two goals on the season heading into the game. The veterans led in a setup role, though – eight of the 13 assists went to players who returned to the team after playing for the Bulls in previous seasons.
Scites made the most of his first appearance in four weeks, stopping all 18 shots the Ice Hawks threw at him. North Iowa besieged Murphy with 51 shots on the night, earning a standings point in their 19th consecutive game.
The Bulls and Ice Hawks will play three home-and-home series this season before going their separate ways for the rest of the regular season after New Year’s Eve. The first of those ends Saturday at the North Iowa Ice Arena, for “Camo Night” – the winner of the turkey-bowling promotion after the first period will win a Thanksgiving dinner, and the chuck-a-puck winner following the second period will earn a Thanksgiving turkey to go along with a cash prize.
Saturday’s game gets underway at 7:30 p.m. and will be video-streamed live on HockeyTV, and audio-streamed for free on Mixlr. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game or any future North Iowa Bulls home game, click here.