MASON CITY, Iowa – With three teams on the initial schedule that won division titles a year ago, North Iowa’s coaches and players knew the schedule in 2017-18 was going to be the most challenging they had ever played. Heading into Friday night’s game against the Metro Jets, the Bulls had still won 31 of their 36 games, and hadn’t lost in regulation to any of those three teams.
After two scoreless periods on Friday night, though, Jets veteran Connor Inger did the lion’s share of the offensive work himself, giving the two-time NA3HL runners-up a 3-0 win on the Bulls’ home ice. The victory partially avenges a pair of losses to the Bulls at Fraser Hockeyland early this season, with a chance to earn a split in the season series coming up on Saturday.
Both teams certainly got their chances in the first 40 minutes. The Jets racked up 22 shots in the first two periods, and North Iowa was able to get 16 shots on net against Andrew Kormos. A combined seven power play chances for the two teams also came up empty.
A boarding penalty to Mitch Dolter (Faribault, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) put Metro on its fifth power play of the night and opened the door for Justin Quenneville’s team to strike. Inger put two away in rapid succession, with tallies at 2:41 and 5:47 of the third period to give the Jets a 2-0 lead.
Colin Cain (Hummelstown, Pa./N.J. Junior Titans U18) would leave the net with two minutes remaining, with the Bulls hoping to make a move with an extra attacker on the ice. Instead, it was Inger burying one in the empty net with 1:39 remaining to give the Jets a final 3-0 lead.
The Bulls’ number-one netminder finished the night with 27 saves on 30 shots, picking up only his second regulation loss in a North Iowa uniform. Kormos stopped all 23 shots against him to earn his third shutout and 12th win of the season. John Studioso (Edmonds, Wash./Everett Jr. Silvertips) also made his return to the Bulls, earning the game’s Second Star.
The win capped off the Jets’ debut in the North Iowa Ice Arena – until this season, all of the previous meetings between the teams had taken place on neutral ice at regular-season showcase events or at the NA3HL’s previous Silver Cup championship tournaments. The Bulls defeated Metro for the title in 2016, only to fall in a rematch at last year’s NA3HL Showcase in December.
North Iowa and the Jets return to the ice Saturday evening for a final regular-season contest and YMCA Night at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming of Saturday’s game available on Mixlr. For advance tickets to Saturday’s game, or any future North Iowa Bulls home game, click here.