MASON CITY — In a game featuring two of the best teams in the league Friday night at the North Iowa Ice Arena, it was not unexpected for North Iowa and Metro to be so evenly matched.
After a scoreless opening two periods, it was likely going to come down to who could make a play and which one was going to be the one to make a mistake. Unfortunately for the Bulls, they were the team that made a mistake early in the third and it eventually led to a 3-0 defeat. It’s the second time this month the Bulls have been shut out at home, and only the second time ever.
“If you’re going to win the game, you’ve got to be the better team and they (the Jets) were the better team,” North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said.
Even in the two scoreless periods, North Iowa (31-2-2-2) was not looking like itself.
Rarely does North Iowa ever get out-shot in a game, but that was the case on this night as not only were they for the game (30-23), but Metro owned that category in each period. Sanden called it a lack of execution and something that needs to change in Saturday’s rematch.
The one mistake in the third period boiled down to a penalty that opened up the scoring for Metro.
On the power play with two minutes gone in the third, the Jets (30-4-1-0) waited for the perfect moment on an odd-man rush, and Connor Inger made the Bulls pay to put the Jets up 1-0.
“I think we were not very smart with it,” Sanden said. “If you know the referee wants to make a certain kind of call then you just stay away from that play. I thought we weren’t as disciplined, obviously, as we needed to be, especially in a big matchup like this game is.”
Inger tallied another just over three minutes later to put the Bulls in a 2-0 hole, and with an empty net, Inger got his hat trick at the 18:21 mark.
North Iowa finished 0 for 6 on the power play.
“I think you just have to challenge your kids to understand what you need to do to win these, and certainly more shots is going to help and winning some races is going to help,” Sanden said. “If we come out and play the same way (Saturday), we may get the same result.”
Collin Cain stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced in goal for the Bulls.
Sanden added that he’s confident the team will be good to go Saturday after a game which the Bulls weren’t themselves.
“This is a really good hockey team,” Sanden said of his team. “They’re proud kids and I would expect them to come back and compete a little bit harder (Saturday) because they know it’s a good team, and certainly nobody wants to get swept in their own building.”