The St. Cloud Norsemen jumped out to an early lead over the North Iowa Bulls and held on for dear life to come away with a 4-3 regulation victory Friday night to extend their winning streak to three and catch North Iowa in the standings.
St. Cloud got on the board first just over halfway through the opening period when a couple of backhand passes behind North Iowa’s net by Hunter Hanson to Kade Peterson and then Peterson to Duke Kiffin allowed Kiffin a scoring chance from the side of the net. He jabbed away at the puck from a tough angle before it squirted to the top of the crease and Hanson put it away from there at the 10:48 mark to make it a 1-0 game. The Norsemen would add to their lead on the Rambow power play when all five St. Cloud skaters touched the puck in succession. Tyler Dysart gained the zone from the left wing with speed and circled around the cage finding Peterson at the right half wall who fed the top of the umbrella and Broten Sabo. Sabo got it to Andrew Clarke at the top of the left circle who hit Perbix at the goal line to the left of the net. Perbix one-timed it to Dysart in the slot and from one knee Dysart snapped it home 19:00 into the first to make it a 2-0 lead going into the second.
In the second period the Norsemen turned defense into offense when after losing a defensive zone faceoff Clarke blocked a shot then gathered the loose puck and raced out to neutral ice. Clarke hit Jack Wandmacher in stride and Wandmacher snapped a shot above the left leg pad, below the glove of Mitch Day, giving St. Cloud a commanding 3-0 lead at 4:36 of the second. But North Iowa responded just over a minute later when relentless forechecking turned a puck over and Willy Johnson below the goal line fed former Norsemen Jackson Bisson who scored to make it a 3-1 game at the 5:54 mark of the second. St. Cloud would regain a three-goal lead when they would again turn a defensive moment into offense. Kiffin broke up an attempted North Iowa pass in St. Cloud defensive third and Clarke jumped on the loose puck. Clarke passed up to Peterson who skated to the right edge of the Norsemen blue line and hit Kiffin at the center ice dot. Kiffin walked the puck over the blue line and Perbix took a handoff and scored from a nearly impossible angle from the goalie’s left to make it a 4-1 score at 18:58 of the second and they’d hold onto that lead heading into the third.
The Bulls would dial up the pressure in the third though thanks to a few Norsemen penalties. While not technically a power play goal, Logan Dombrowsky fired a goal in between the top of the circles a second after a St. Cloud penalty expired and then Landon MacDonald scored from almost the same spot with the Bulls’ goalie pulled for an extra attacker on a 6-on-4 power play goal that made it a closer finish. But the Norsemen, on the back of a 25-save performance from Ethan Dahlmeir, came away with the 4-3 victory. Because they kept the Bulls from picking up any points on the night, and on the season (they’re 3-0 against North Iowa this season) St. Cloud has tied them in the standings at 36 points.
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz was pleased with the performance from Dahlmeir, on coincidentally the evening his game worn jersey from last season was auctioned off. “I thought, especially in the first period, he made some big saves. We kind of gave up a few chances in the slot and he came up big,” complimented Kautz. “Back-to-back games where I thought he was obviously giving us a chance to win and that’s what you need out of your goaltender. Very pleased with the things he did.”
Kautz was also pleased with the outcome but felt the game didn’t need to be as much of a nail biter as it turned out to be. “Obviously would have liked to have kept the score one-sided and not sweat it out but that’s how it works sometimes. That’s how it is in our division it seems like; on any given night anybody can beat anybody. If you’re not on top of your game you won’t get the result you want,” Kautz cautions.
In a game that saw 48 minutes of penalties assessed, including a fight in the third period, Kautz isn’t surprised by the physicality, but points out that’s a product of when you see the same opponents time and again. “The biggest thing is seeing teams over and over again, we only have six teams in our division, and you see teams more and more, you might feel a certain way about some players,” reasons Kautz. “It’s part of the game, you wanna hit some people and separate them from the puck and make them think and move the puck a little faster so that’s to be expected moving forward.”
Tune in to see if the physicality and chippiness continues as the series shifts to Mason City Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The puck drops at 7:10 Saturday and 3:10 Sunday and both games can be watched online at www.hockeytv.com.
The Norsemen are next in action back at the MAC on Friday and Saturday, February 3rd and 4th, vs. the Bismarck Bobcats. Tickets are available online at https://tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com/.