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MASON CITY — Friday’s start to the NA3HL playoffs didn’t go exactly how the North Iowa Bulls drew it up, but the result is the only thing they cared about at the end of the day.

North Iowa shook off a slow start offensively and rolled to a 5-0 win over Wausau to take a 1-0 series lead in the West Division playoff opener.

It was a 1-0 game after two periods before the Bulls’ offense lit up the scoreboard for four goals in the third.

“I think because we finally got some front presence in front of their goalie,” North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said. “We let him see everything for two periods, and we talked about in our pregame meeting that if we let him see it, he’s going to stop it. He’s a good goaltender. If you don’t make it hard on him, it’s not hard.”

After the Bulls scored 10:16 into the first period on a goal by Jarod Blackowiak, they struggled to get anything past Wausau goaltender Henry Baribeau.

Baribeau was like a brick wall for the next period and a half as he turned away 39 of the 40 shots he faced through two periods.

Sensing maybe they had worn him down a bit, the Bulls jumped early in the third when Cameron Fagerlee lit the lamp 45 seconds in. The Bulls added another on a goal by Dan Sandvig at the 7:58 mark, Josh Studioso fired a shot from the blue line on the power play 14:13 into the third, and Aaron Swanson capped off the evening with a goal with just over four minutes to play.

“We started off a little slow today, slower than we’d like to, obviously,” Bulls defenseman Lucas McKinnon said. “We picked it up in the third period finally and started putting some in the net, and hopefully that transitions into going into tomorrow.”

Baribeau finished with 64 saves on 69 shots for the RiverWolves.

Bulls goalie Connor Poczos earned the win, stopping all 16 shots he faced.

North Iowa can wrap up the series with a win Saturday at Wausau. Game time is set for 7:10 p.m.

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Sports Reporter

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