WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. – Twin City scored three straight goals in an eight-and-a-half-minute span to give the North Iowa Bulls a good scare Saturday night, but the Bulls answered with a four-goal flurry to put the Steel out of the playoffs with an opening-round sweep for the third time in the last four years. With the win, North Iowa moves their all-time playoff record against Twin City to 6-0 and awaits the winner of a decisive Game 3 between Alexandria and Granite City on Sunday.
North Iowa struck first, as they had 31 times already this year, as Jake Mullendore's (Amery, WI) right-side shot rebounded right out to Dylan Zins (Prior Lake, MN) at the edge of the slot, and the center snapped the second-chance shot home past Parker Butler for the opening goal of the game at 10:29 of the first period. Twin CIty took command going into the intermission with two quick goals, starting with a long pass that Joe Costello pushed ahead from the blue line that Tom Reilly poked in past Chris Amsden (St. Peter, MN) on the doorstep at 14:14 into the game. Less than two minutes later, the lead shifted in favor of the Steel with Jake McGlocklin poking one into an empty Bulls net after a collision behind the cage.
The second period started in much the same fashion as the first ended, with Aharon Lara chasing down a long rebound on the right wing and walking it into the right-side faceoff circle in front of Amsden. Two dekes and one shot later, Lara had beaten the Bulls' netminder top shelf and given his team its first two-goal lead in the series at 2:34 of the period. That two-goal lead lasted just more than eight minutes, though, thanks to Zins's second goal of the game, as Zins curled around at the wing to face the net and snapped one home past Butler to trim the lead back to 3-2 going into the final period.
The third period belonged to Todd Sanden's team, as Sam Naegele (Coon Rapids, MN) gave his team the tying goal at 9:27 of the final frame, ripping a slap shot from the left faceoff circle past the Twin City goalie to deadlock the game at 3-3. A minute and 42 seconds later, the lead shifted back into North Iowa hands on Joe Kleven's (Prior Lake, MN) power play one-timer from the high slot, and Jake Johnson's (Sun Prairie, WI) tough-angle push-in with a fraction of a second left on the clock gave the Bulls the 5-3 win and the series sweep over the Steel.
One night after keeping 45 Bulls shots out of the net, Butler faced 45 more shots, stopping 41. Amsden earned his eighth win as a Bull this season, stopping 30 of the 33 shots he faced and all of the last 17 Steel opportunities. North Iowa moves to 36-7-1 in games where they outshoot their opponents, pulling ahead on the shot chart with Zins's second-period goal. Where the first game in the best-of-3 set was decided by the special teams, it took until Kleven's eventual game-winner to get a power play or shorthanded tally on the board. Next Friday's game against the Blizzard or the Lumberjacks begins the NA3HL West Division Finals, with the opening faceoff at 7:30 p.m. at the North Iowa Ice Arena in Mason City.