WILLMAR, Minn. – After 40 minutes of hockey, the Willmar WarHawks found themselves just a period away from their first-ever regulation win over the North Iowa Bulls.
So how did the Bulls feel going into the final period? Cool as cucumbers, confident as ever. And in the final 20 minutes, they looked the part.
The Bulls scored four goals in the final period, flipping a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead in the span of 51 seconds and riding a hot finish from Brayden Uttech (Sun Prairie, Wis./Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings) to a 5-3 win over the WarHawks. The victory pushes North Iowa’s winning streak to four games and keeps them in first place in the North American Tier 3 Hockey League’s West Division.
North Iowa newcomer Jack Campion (Crystal, Minn./Armstrong H.S.) scored on only his third shift as a Bull, tapping in a power-play one-timer at the 6:45 mark of the first period. Owen Thomas’s hooking minor gave the Bulls the man-advantage, and Campion was able to tap in the toss in front of the net from Cal Nauss (Wayzata, Minn./North Iowa Bulls).
“It felt good to get that out of the way and step right into it with the Bulls,” said Campion. “It was a nice play by my teammates on the power play there.”
Willmar’s Austin Jozwick stole the second-period show, tossing one into the upper half of the net at 3:34 of the middle stanza and scoring on a transition one-timer from Cole Wigestrand 10 minutes later to give the WarHawks a 2-1 lead.
That lead was the only one Willmar got, but it was hard-fought – a 13-9 shots edge in the second period put the WarHawks ahead on that count, and a 17-13 margin in the third only added to the gap.
However, the Bulls got the bounces in the third – Hayden Fox’s (Anchorage, Alaska/Team Alaska U18) right-wing shot at 4:15 of the third period snuck around two Willmar defenders to tie the game at 2-2. At 5:06, Carter Newpower (Cottage Grove, Minn./Park H.S.) sent one from the goal line to Nick Mohs-Messerli (Orono, Minn./Orono H.S.) in the slot for a one-timer, and his shot beat Luke Weberg on his glove side to take the lead back.
With 6:11 to go, Michael Sweetland rang one in off the back post to beat Joe Daninger (Blaine, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) to tie the game, but Uttech had the quick answer with 5:22 left, finding a loose rebound outside the crease to Weberg’s right and Weberg off his feet in front of the net. Uttech put the puck on the backhand side of his stick and threw it in the net over the Willmar netminder to take the lead for good.
Down a man with 90 seconds to go, WarHawks head coach Kirk Olimb called Weberg to the bench, and Uttech was able to score again with 56.4 seconds left, scooping the puck into the net as he was knocked off his feet in front of the right post.
“We really needed to stay positive the whole time,” said Uttech. “They had us in the first half (of the game), but we came back and found our fighting spirit, played some Bulls hockey and got a huge W.”
North Iowa’s power play came through again, going 2-for-6 in the game and holding Willmar’s power-play unit off the board on four chances. The WarHawks remain scoreless on the power play for the season, with 22 opportunities in their first six outings.
Daninger picked up his third win, making 33 saves and pushing North Iowa to 5-1 for the season. Weberg took the loss, making 26 saves and dropping to 2-1 for the year, while the WarHawks’ record falls to 2-4.
The Bulls return to the road on Saturday night, with a trip to Alexandria to face the Blizzard. The opening puck drop at the Runestone Community Center is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. North Iowa’s next home game takes them up against the WarHawks on Saturday, October 31 to celebrate “Boos and Brews” for Halloween night. To purchase advance tickets to any upcoming North Iowa Bulls home game, click here.
Updated news and information on the North Iowa Bulls’ 10th Anniversary season are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team’s social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
North Iowa 1 0 4 – 5
Willmar 0 2 1 – 3
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Campion 1 (Nauss, Eha), 6:45 (PP). Penalties-Thomas Wil (hooking-minor), 6:11; Freeman Nio (slashing-minor), 9:43; Johnson Wil (cross checking-minor), 11:02.
2nd Period-2, Willmar, Jozwick 1 (Mock), 3:34. 3, Willmar, Jozwick 2 (Wigestrand), 13:33. Penalties-Johnson Wil (roughing-minor), 14:56.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Fox 3 (Duren, Uttech), 4:15. 5, North Iowa, Mohs-Messerli 1 (Newpower, Kaneko), 5:06. 6, Willmar, Sweetland 3 (O’Brien, Johnson), 13:49. 7, North Iowa, Uttech 3 (Mohs-Messerli, Nauss), 14:38. 8, North Iowa, Uttech 4 (Freeman), 19:04 (PP). Penalties-Lindstrom Nio (high sticking-minor), 1:08; Lindstrom Nio (tripping-minor), 6:02; Jorgenson Nio (head contact-minor), 8:48; Mohrman Wil (roughing-minor), 9:32; Eha Nio (checking from behind-10 misc), 17:28; Johnson Wil (checking from behind-10 misc), 17:28; Miller Wil (roughing-minor), 17:28; Willis Wil (tripping-minor), 19:49.
Shots on Goal-North Iowa 9-9-13-31. Willmar 6-13-17-36.
Power Play Opportunities-North Iowa 2 / 0; Willmar 0 / 0.
Goalies-North Iowa, Daninger 3-0-0-0 (36 shots-33 saves). Willmar, Weberg 2-1-0-0 (31 shots-26 saves).
Linesmen-Evan Davis, Dillon Zobel.