FRASER, Mich. – It’s often said that if one wants to be the best, one must beat the best. While it may be too early in the season to start discussing who “the best” really is, it’s not too early to assume the North Iowa Bulls will be the talk of the NA3HL this week.
The Bulls are 6-0 after scoring a sweep of the Metro Jets this weekend, capping it off with a 5-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Fraser Hockeyland. The loss gives the Jets back-to-back defeats for the first time since December of 2014.
The teams traded goals in the first period, but got the early lead behind a goal from Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) just 2:27 into the contest. The game went to the second period tied at 1, thanks to a goal from Aaron Shahin nine minutes later.
The second period is where North Iowa made its mark, starting with Jake Joyaux (Bloomingdale, Ill./North Iowa Bulls) – Joyaux needed 32 games last year, including four playoff appearances, to score his first goal as a Bull. This year, he picked up his second goal in just the sixth game of the year, at 4:15 of the second stanza.
Just 79 seconds later, Dominic Skrelja (South Lyon, Mich./Honeybaked U18) put an insurance goal on the board to push the score to 3-1. With 4:07 showing on the clock, the Metro power-play unit’s efforts paid off with George Hansen’s first goal of the season, but the Bulls weren’t about to let the lead get away. Skrelja put another goal away with just 25 seconds left before the intermission, for a 4-2 advantage.
Isaac Baron‘s (Burnsville, Minn./Academy of Holy Angels) second goal of the weekend with 7:17 left may not have been a dagger, but it put the Jets to work quickly if they wanted to get back into the game. The most they could muster in the end was Connor Inger’s final goal with just 49 seconds remaining.
The penalty-killing units were at the top of their game this weekend – North Iowa finished the weekend 6-for-7 down a man, while the Jets went a perfect 5-for-5 on the kill. After showing the hot hand Saturday, Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) returned to the net, making 28 saves for a perfect 4-0 start to his Bulls career.
For the second straight day, though, the Bulls chased a Metro netminder from his net. After taking over late in Saturday’s game, Brian Tallieu left Sunday’s matchup after Skrelja’s first goal, stopping nine of North Iowa’s 12 shots up to that point. Andrew Kormos returned to the net for the second half of the game, stopping 16 of 18.
There’s one weekend to go in the season-opening road trip for Todd Sanden’s team – North Iowa will travel to St. Louis to face the Jr. Blues this Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Affton Ice Rink in Affton, Missouri, with an early faceoff time of 2 p.m. on Saturday. Live video streaming for both games is available on HockeyTV.