MASON CITY, Iowa – One night after coming up empty in a bid to solve Metro Jets goaltender Andrew Kormos, North Iowa beat him early to take the lead. Unfortunately, the Jets gained the momentum back and never trailed again in a 5-4 win, their 13th straight. The loss leaves the Bulls with a 31-3-2-2 record heading into the final six weeks of the regular season, and a rare sweep on home ice.
Kormos kicked a rebound out just a bit too wide on Cameron Fagerlee‘s (St. Anthony, Minn./Totino-Grace H.S.) shot at the 3:34 mark of the first period, leaving a rebound for Connor Clemons (Savage, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) to put away for the initial lead.
“That was going to be a key to our success, to get out and get on the board first,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “They’re as good as any team we’ve played this year, and you look at the schedule coming up – it’s a tough stretch for us here.”
The lead stood for most of the first period, but Joey Bruce’s shot with 2:50 remaining in the first period beat Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) along the ice to tie the game heading to the second period.
Then, the Jets struck for the lead – Matt Schaumburger beat Cain at the 3:18 mark of the second period for a 2-1 advantage, and Metro doubled the lead at the 13:36 mark on an errant clearing attempt behind the net between Cain and John Studioso (Edmonds, Wash./Everett Jr. Silvertips). Instead of heading down the ice, the puck would settle right on the doorstep for Brodie Thornton to put into the open net.
The home team wasn’t about to go silently into the second-period break, though – off of leading passes from Brendan Studioso (Mukilteo, Wash./North Iowa Bulls) and Josh Arnold (Roseville, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), Dayton Honkanen (New Brighton, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) led the footrace up the right-wing wall and sniped one into the upper half of the net with 5:12 remaining to halve the lead.
Jhuwon Davis used his speed to double it again and take the momentum into the intermission, grabbing the puck near the cage and hopping over the top of Cain to go across the goal mouth and push the lead to 4-2 with 2:50 remaining in the second.
North Iowa showcased its quick-strike abilities in the third on back-to-back tallies by Fagerlee and Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) just 45 seconds apart, tying the game before the eight-minute mark of the period. The final goal, though, came from Michael Gulawsky with 9:50 remaining, on another skipped-rock shot along the ice.
The Bulls spent the final minutes pushing the pace, but a hooking penalty to Lucas McKinnon (Chapin, Iowa/North Iowa Bulls) with 1:33 remaining delayed North Iowa’s efforts to pull Cain from the net and forced the hosts to finish the game down a man. The net was finally emptied with just over 30 seconds left, but it wasn’t enough time for North Iowa to put away a final goal and send the game to an extra period.
Cain finished up the night with 28 saves on 33 Metro chances, while the Bulls forced Kormos to take a 26-save victory on 30 shots. Special-teams favored the penalty kill in a major way, with all four combined man-advantages in the game going unaccounted for by the power-play units.
The loss marks the first two-game sweep on home ice since Granite City’s 7-5 and 5-2 wins in “The Barn” last February. North Iowa won’t return to NA3HL play for two weeks, when the defending national champions host the Bulls in Sauk Rapids on Feb. 9 and 10.
There is one more home game on North Iowa’s schedule this week, however, as the Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep team visits the “Madhouse in Mason City” on Wednesday evening for Faith and Family Night. The Sabres edged out the Bulls in Faribault, Minnesota this past Wednesday, 3-2.
“As coaches, we look at this stretch of games as measuring-stick moments on where we’re at and where we need to get to,” said Sanden. “We’re coming up quickly on the roster deadline, so if we’re able to make any moves to bolster our situation we’d certainly be looking to do that. You don’t win championships by eating cupcakes every weekend and pumping teams by 10 goals.”