MASON CITY — With the NA3HL playoffs less than a week away, the North Iowa Bulls were in search of a little momentum Friday vs. Peoria.
In a game that had a postseason-like feel to it throughout, North Iowa, helped by a short-handed goal to break a 1-1 tie at the start of the third, managed to score a 3-2 victory.
“Last weekend didn’t really go the way we wanted it so we wanted to have a good start this weekend and we came out, battled and played our normal Bulls hockey that we usually do,” said Sean Mallonee.
For the Bulls on Friday, it came down to a complete effort, which was something coach Todd Sanden was looking for out of his team. Nothing exemplified that more than Mallonee’s short-handed goal.
North Iowa and Peoria traded goals in the second period as Tyler Bump tallied one for the Bulls at the 10:45 mark and Jack Healy answered nearly three minutes later to tie the game 1-1.
Right off the faceoff at the start of the third with Peoria on the Power Play, Bulls forward Brendan Studioso battled on the forecheck to win the puck, found Mallonee and the veteran did the rest to stake North Iowa a 2-1 lead 12 seconds into the period.
“We work on power play and PK (penalty kill) every week,” Mallonee said. “It’s actually a competition where we get 10 power plays and it’s PK vs. power play. If they score they get two points and if power play scores they get one, and we actually score a lot more short-handed goals than you’d think.”
Mallonee tallied another goal at the 12:50 mark in the third to give the Bulls a little insurance.
Peoria scored with a little more than five minutes to play before North Iowa held off a 6-on-5 in the final minute to seal the win.
Drew Scites stopped 21 of the 23 shots on goal he faced for the Bulls.
North Iowa has two more games — tonight vs. Peoria and Sunday vs. La Crosse — before kicking off postseason play next Friday vs. Rochester.
“You try to build momentum, and we’re definitely playing good opponents here in Peoria and La Crosse on Sunday,” Sanden said. “If you can build a little momentum against good opponents, that really launches you pretty well into the playoffs … you don’t want to play soft people before.”