MASON CITY | The North Iowa Bulls have had entire seasons where they haven’t lost twice at home.
The Bulls are in need of a little home cooking these days. North Iowa lost for the second straight time on its home ice Friday, dropping a 7-5 decision to longtime rival Granite City at the North Iowa Ice Arena.
From an intermission jersey change for North Iowa to five unanswered goals by the Lumberjacks, this was clearly not North Iowa’s night. North Iowa lost last Friday night at home 6-4 to New Ulm. Despite the loss, North Iowa clinched the Central Division thanks to a La Crosse loss.
“When you look at how young we are, I'm not rattled by losing a couple of games at home," North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said. "When you look at what we've done here, it's ridiculous. At some point you are going to have some valleys, and I'm not even calling this a valley because we are splitting weekends.
"In the grand scheme of things, that's not good enough for us. But that's kind of where we're at right now."
The game had an odd feel from start to finish. North Iowa led 2-0, but things quickly changed as Granite City stormed back to tie it at two, one of the Bulls’ best players, Sean Mallonee, was sent off for head contact and the Lumberjacks scored at will through two periods. At one point Granite City had five goals on 11 shots.
North Iowa changed uniform tops after the first period, switching from a tie-dye sweater that will be auctioned off Saturday night to its traditional home white tops. Both teams wearing dark sweaters was the reason North Iowa changed jerseys.
A North Iowa team that has long been one of the best defensive units in the NA3HL has struggled in recent outings.
Sanden said there is plenty of blame to go around after his team has allowed 13 goals in its last two home contests.
“We need our best players to be our best players every night, and some of them have been a little light lately, too. I'm not calling anybody out, but we need to be better as a group," Sanden said.
When North Iowa pulled within 6-4 in the third period, it spent too much time on the penalty kill, and Granite City scored the clincher with just over two minutes remaining.
North Iowa (24-6-4-2) will try for the weekend split tonight when it hosts Granite City (28-6-0-1).
"They went hard every shift," Sanden said. "And I don't know if we put it in cruise after going up by two and thought it was going to be easy. It didn't feel like we were up two to me."