MASON CITY, Iowa – For much of North Iowa’s Fraser Cup playoff opener against Rochester, the puck luck was not on the Bulls’ side. Odd bounces and missed chances seemed to pop up right when the Bulls looked to have an opportunity in hand.
Three goals in the final six minutes, though – two from former Minnesota Magician Carter Wagner (Lino Lakes, Minn./Minnesota Magicians) put North Iowa in the driver’s seat heading to Game 2 of the West Division semifinals after a 4-2 victory at the North Iowa Ice Arena. To date, the Bulls have won all 16 first-round playoff games in franchise history, with a chance to close out the Grizzlies’ season on Saturday.
Immediately after a first-period faceoff from Matt Dahseide (Maplewood, Minn./North Iowa Bulls), Nick Bowlin (Oakdale, Minn./Tartan H.S.) got control off the puck and put it past Nick Bucklin for the opening goal at the 6:21 mark of the contest for the opening lead.
That lead lasted all of 11 seconds. After gaining control off of the restart, a left-wing drive from Oskar Stahl clipped Matthew DeRosa on its way to the net to tie the game at 1-1. The shot caught just enough of DeRosa to gain the attention of referee Conor Harrington – who reported DeRosa’s deflection to the scorer’s bench – and just enough to get it past Dysen Skinner (Billings, Mont./Sioux Falls Jr. Stampede 18U) for the tying goal.
A short stretch near the midway point of the game yielded several chances for Rochester after a few efforts to clear the puck by the Bulls came up short. The last of those chances came with a puck left out in front of the net and traffic swirling around Joey Fodstad, who lit the lamp at 8:47 with a direct challenge on Skinner.
Then came Jarod Blackowiak’s (Eden Prairie, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) tying goal with 5:59 to go. That goal changed the complexion of the game and set up the big finish. Just two minutes later, Wagner stuffed the eventual game-winner under the crossbar to put the Bulls back in the lead with under four minutes to play.
Wagner sealed the deal by scoring again into the empty net with 1:11 to go, but not before Cam Fagerlee’s (St. Anthony, Minn./North Iowa Bulls) long-distance try missed the target. Fagerlee chased down his own rebound and fed Wagner above the goal line, who was able to finish off the scoring just seconds later.
“It was a tough start for us,” said Wagner. “We were a little tired tonight, and we figured it out and found a way to come back and win. (Blackowiak’s goal] gave us some momentum back, but we had to win it in regulation. It’s always tough going into overtime.”
The multi-goal effort was Wagner’s first since his opening week with the Bulls in mid-January. Peter Verstegen (Oshkosh, Wis./North Iowa Bulls) and Fagerlee both assisted on each of Wagner’s goals, while Stahl also finished the night with a couple of assists for the Grizzlies.
A Game 2 victory for North Iowa would send the Bulls on to their eighth straight division final, while a win for Rochester sends the series back to Mason City for a decisive Game 3 on Sunday evening. The opening puck drop for North Iowa and Rochester in the second game of their best-of-three series is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Saturday night at Rochester. Live streaming coverage is available on HockeyTV, with free audio streaming on Mixlr.
With the win, North Iowa is also guaranteed at least one more home game this season, either on Sunday or in next weekend’s West Division finals. To purchase playoff tickets, click here.
Rochester 1 1 0 – 2
North Iowa 1 0 3 – 4
1st Period-1, North Iowa, Bowlin 1 (Dahlseide), 6:21. 2, Rochester, DeRosa 1 (Stahl), 6:32. Penalties-Petronack Nio (tripping-minor), 10:00; Hall Roc (high sticking-minor), 11:37; Junker Nio (tripping-minor), 15:17.
2nd Period-3, Rochester, Fodstad 1 (Hall, Stahl), 8:47. Penalties-Fodstad Roc (checking from behind-minor), 12:45; Roo Nio (hooking-minor), 16:11.
3rd Period-4, North Iowa, Blackowiak 1 (McDermott, Studioso), 14:01. 5, North Iowa, Wagner 1 (Fagerlee, Verstegen), 16:01. 6, North Iowa, Wagner 2 (Fagerlee, Verstegen), 18:49 (EN). Penalties-Potach Roc (elbowing-minor), 3:49; Studioso Nio (cross checking-minor), 19:56.
Shots on Goal-Rochester 7-13-7-27. North Iowa 6-11-10-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Rochester 0 / 4; North Iowa 0 / 3.
Goalies-Rochester, Bucklin (26 shots-23 saves). North Iowa, Skinner (27 shots-25 saves).
Linesmen-Aaron Mostrom, Daniel Naylor.