SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. – Granite City forward Brandon Bissett didn’t miss it when he put the puck on net on his first shift, just 73 seconds into the Lumberjacks’ home contest against the North Iowa Bulls on Friday.
That only kicked their visitors into gear, though, and the Lumberjacks missed out on a win as the Bulls went on a four-goal spree for a 4-1 win against the defending NA3HL national champions, snapping a stretch of four losses in their last five meetings with Granite City.
North Iowa was able to kill off a tripping minor from Lucas McKinnon (Chapin, Iowa/North Iowa Bulls) just past the nine-minute mark of the first period, and just as he was ready to exit the penalty box, Alex Timm (Sand Creek, Wis./Northwest H.S.) found himself on the ice after being tripped by Granite City goalie Ridge Gerads.
That penalty wasn’t answered with a tally in the Bulls’ allotted two minutes with the extra man, but it set up the chance that North Iowa needed shortly after, on a goal from Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./Oshkosh H.S.) with 6:01 remaining in the first period.
The Bulls outshot their hosts 11-6 in the second period, but almost stayed stuck in a 1-1 tie heading to the final 20 minutes. Finally, Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) put Todd Sanden’s team on top for good with just 1:39 remaining before the break.
North Iowa clung to its 2-1 lead until the final three minutes before adding some cushion to finish the night. Cameron Fagerlee (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) put the Bulls’ insurance policy into place on his 21st goal of the season with 2:53 to go, and Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) put the ‘Jacks away with 34 seconds to go on an empty-net tally.
Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) notched his league-best 22nd win of the season with 20 saves on 21 Granite City shots. Gerads made 33 saves on 36 North Iowa shots before departing the ice with 1:32 to go for an extra attacker. The loss snapped his three-game winning streak and dropped his record for the year to 11-6.
Up next is the final regular-season meeting between the teams for 2017-18, set for Saturday night at the Armadillo Deck Rink at Sports Arena East. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with live streaming coverage on HockeyTV.
North Iowa returns home next Friday and Saturday for a two-game set against the St. Louis Jr. Blues. Friday’s game is “Scout Night” at the North Iowa Ice Arena, while the Bulls will observe their Billet Appreciation Night on Saturday, along with a postgame skate and a jersey auction to benefit the North Iowa Humane Society in Mason City. For advance tickets to those games or any future Bulls home games, click here.