ROMEOVILLE, Ill. — North Iowa took care of what it needed to Friday night in an 8-4 drubbing of Long Beach. Unfortunately, this is where the road ends for the Bulls as they finished third place in Pool B and were eliminated from the Silver Cup tournament.
“It’s just sad because you know how much effort, time and sweat you put into this and you wish you had another chance,” North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said.
Needing a win and a loss by Binghamton, the Bulls held up their end of the bargain in one of their best offensive games of the season.
From the moment the puck dropped Friday, the Bulls were the best team on the ice.
North Iowa grabbed a 1-0 lead 47 seconds into the game when Connor Clemons scored, assisted by Braxton Collins. Owen Larson tallied a goal of his own at the 1:29 mark and the Bulls were in full control not even two minutes into the game.
Clemons and Mitch Dolter each netted a goal to put North Iowa up 4-0 before a Long Beach goal with 1:04 to play in the first made the score 4-1 after 1.
After another Long Beach goal 9:24 into the second, Dolter and Clemons teamed up for a goal apiece to push the Bulls lead to a 6-1 lead after 2.
The Bulls and Sharks went back and forth in the third period with two goals apiece as Brendan Studioso and Thursday’s hero Nick Klishko each found the back of the net for North Iowa.
Drew Scites picked up the win in net for North Iowa after stopping 23 of the 27 shots he faced.
About ten minutes before the Bulls’ game ended, their fate was sealed when Binghamton rallied past Yellowstone for a 3-2 victory. Binghamton won the pool with seven points and Yellowstone was the runner-up with six. North Iowa finished just outside of the mix with five.
It was just the second time in franchise history North Iowa failed to make the Silver Cup final. The only other time came in its first season in North Iowa when it didn’t make the tournament.
For Sanden, this season’s end came down to missed opportunities.
The Bulls had a 2-1 lead in their first game against Yellowstone and allowed three unanswered to fall into a bad spot with two games to play. They also had a chance to ice away the game late Thursday vs. Binghamton but let the Junior Senators tie it, force overtime, and the Bulls eventually walked out with one less point than a win in regulation would’ve netted them.
But ultimately, Sanden said parts of this season will still go down as successes.
“You look at what these kids did and it’s still rewarding,” Sanden said. “We still won the Central Division, won the Central Division playoffs and made the Silver Cup tournament. It’s hard not to be happy about those things.”