It took three attempts but the St. Cloud Norsemen finally got to play the North Iowa Bulls last Saturday after the Thursday game in Mason City and the Friday game scheduled for St. Cloud were both postponed because of travel difficulties due to the weather. It was worth the wait though, as the Norsemen erased an early two-goal deficit and honored a fallen friend and fan to the organization with a 4-3 regulation victory over the Bulls Saturday night.
The game didn’t start out the way the home team would have liked when less than six minutes in Jack Mesic took a shot from the right point that Simone Dadie tipped into the left pad of Norsemen goalie Ethan Dahlmeir which took a North Iowa bounce right to the tape of Blake Johnson, who buried the rebound from Dahlmeir’s right just 5:56 into the game. St. Cloud responded halfway through the frame when several Bulls were wrestling for a puck and Daniels Murnieks bolted through them and stole it from his defensive right circle, skated it to neutral ice and sent a long right to left pass down to Andrew Clarke. Clarke pulled it back from the goal line to the left point and at the very top of the circle Broten Sabo one-timed it over the left pad and under the glove of Mitch Day, who had his eyes taken away from a screen established by Murnieks. The goal tied the score 10:06 into the first but North Iowa would take the lead back moments later. The Norsemen would kill off a penalty but six seconds later were victimized as North Iowa fed Eli Miller at the right circle from below the goal line and Miller dropped to one knee and finished the pass on the faceoff dot from Christian Heckman short side to put the Bulls back on top at 12:44. Just over three minutes later, North Iowa converted as a bouncing puck went to Byron Hartley who swept the puck in from a sharp angle for his 11th goal of the season, one behind Max Scott for the team lead. The goal chased Dahlmeir at the 15:55 mark of the game and Tomáš Boľo stepped up in relief, stopping the two shots he faced in the closing minutes of the stanza as North Iowa outshot St. Cloud 9-7 for the period.
The Norsemen dialed up the pressure the next frame and outshot the Bulls by a large margin, 14-5. It paid off for St. Cloud nine minutes into the second when defenseman Otto Humble tracked down a puck at neutral ice and made a blueline to blueline pass ahead to Murnieks down the middle. Murnieks sauced a pass to Dysart who was cutting in from the right side and on his backhand Dysart lifted it high over the glove of Day to cut the North Iowa lead to one 9:13 into the frame. Dysart and the Norsemen weren’t done in the period however, as Murnieks cleared the puck from behind his own net to Clarke waiting at the right wing boards in the defensive zone. Clarked backhanded a puck high that went glass and out to the redline where it was misplayed by a Bulls defenseman. Dysart raced onto the loose puck, used his left hand to fend off the other defender, and in tight from almost no angle, at the last moment pulled the puck from his backhand to his forehand and shot it straight up the elevator shaft, picking the top right corner of the net to tie the game up 3-3, 14:15 into the period. A chunk out of the ice surface ended the second period prematurely allowing both teams to go to the locker room for intermission then play the remaining 2:19 of the second after the resurfacing and then got into the final twenty minutes of hockey.
Despite St. Cloud outshooting and outchancing North Iowa in the final frame, it remained a tied game with two minutes to play. A North Iowa failed attempt to clear was cut off by Sabo at the left point and after keeping the zone he quickly fed it down low to Hunter Hanson. Hanson turned and snapped a shot on the short side, top corner over the right shoulder of Day that gave the Norsemen their first lead of the contest with just 1:48 left in regulation. North Iowa pulled their goaltender late but couldn’t find the equalizer and St. Cloud pulled away with the 4-3 regulation victory, which is their third in a row. St. Cloud outshot North Iowa 12-5 in the final 20 minutes and 33-19 for the game.
“I think the last two weekends the guys played closer to a full 60-minute game with their effort,” St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz compliments. “They were working hard together and doing the little things to be successful.”
It had been an emotional day for the team, who earlier in the morning went to St. Cloud Tech High School to attend the visitation and celebration of life for Charlie Boike, the 17-year-old son of Norsemen Billet Coordinator and Game Day Operations Director Erika Boike, who had tragically passed away on Saturday, December 10th, the night of the previous Norsemen game.
“It was a very emotional day for the team going to the celebration of life for Charles Boike and playing a game after having two games canceled the prior two days,” notes Kautz. “The one thing that we had the whole day was a group of guys who supported each other and stuck together. That’s what we did during the game. There was no doubt after being down 3-1 that we weren’t going to win the game. Everyone believed in each other and played hard after being down. It was a great team effort to get a win after an emotional day.”
The win brings the Norsemen to .500 on the year with a record of 12-12-2 and keeps them ahead of Bismarck in the Central Division standings. It also brings St. Cloud just two points behind North Iowa and Minot with one and two games in hand against the two squads respectively.
The team will enjoy the upcoming weekend off for the holidays before getting back at it with a six-game stretch on the road. Friday and Saturday, December 30th and 31st, tSt. Cloud will be in South Dakota taking on the Aberdeen Wings, then turn around and head to North Dakota the following weekend for three games in three nights from Thursday, January 5th through Saturday, January 7th. They’ll then play the first half of a home-and-home on Friday, January 13th in Austin, MN vs. the Austin Bruins. All of those games can be watched online at hockeytv.com. Their next home game is the next night as they break up the longest string of road games on the season when they host the Bruins on Saturday, January 14th. Tickets for that game and all home Norsemen games can be purchased online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.
The makeup dates for the postponed games vs. the North Iowa Bulls in Mason City and in St. Cloud are being worked out but have not been determined yet. Keep an eye on the St. Cloud Norsemen website and social media for the announcement of the makeup dates.