The St. Cloud Norsemen kept their winning ways going Sunday afternoon with a 2-1 regulation victory in Mason City over the North Iowa Bulls. The win extends their winning streak to a season high five, they remain undefeated against North Iowa and with a record of 18-16-2-2 and 40 points in the standings, the Norsemen have propelled themselves to currently sitting in a playoff spot.
It didn’t take the Norsemen long Sunday to find themselves on the scoresheet as just over a minute into the game a moment after setting up Nik Hong with a good look in the slot, Tyler Dysart then peeled the puck off the right wing half wall and fed it back to the blue line and Carter Bradley. Bradley made a D-to-D pass and hit Broten Sabo on the left side of the sheet and Sabo rifled a snapshot from above the circles through some traffic high, glove-side over Mitch Day just 1:02 into the game. St. Cloud doubled their lead on their first Rambow power play opportunity of the afternoon when all five Norsemen skaters got a touch on the puck after an offensive zone faceoff win. Eventually Sabo had the puck high at the center point just inside the blueline and found Andrew Clarke at the left circle. Clarke hit Perbix at the goal line to the right of the netminder and he one-timed a pass to Dysart in the slot. Like Perbix, Dysart treated the puck like a hot potato and got rid of it as soon as it touched his tape and he was able to beat the goalie at 18:48 of the first to silence the crowd and take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
At the other end of the ice Ethan Dahlmeir was busy as he made 13 saves in the first period and another 9 in the second. The only puck that would get past him all afternoon was in the second period when North Iowa dumped the puck into the right corner and good forechecking by Luke Baker turned the puck over when the Norsemen attempted to clear. The puck settled down at the right circle for Jack Seaverson who wasted no time snapping a quick shot in tight quarters to bring the game within one at the 9:15 mark of the second period. But Dahlmeier and the Norsemen would batten down the hatches and keep North Iowa off the scoreboard for the remainder of the second and all of the third period despite 11 more shots in the final frame from North Iowa. The Bulls pulled their goalie Day with 1:30 left in regulation but couldn’t get the equalizer and St. Cloud prevailed in regulation by a final of 2-1.
On the weekend Clarke led the team with six points, Dysart had five and a team high three goals while Perbix also contributed five points and Sabo was just behind with four. Despite only scoring two goals Sunday all four of those players were able to register at least a point in the 2-1 win. That depth of scoring really propelled the Norsemen to three victories, especially because all of the games were so close. Kautz talks about the plethora of guys finding the scoresheet. “I think just understanding where we’re at in the standings and understanding that every point is so crucial… I think guys maybe are getting into it a little more and it’s nice for a couple of them to get rewarded,” points out Kautz. “In the big games when it’s on the line you need your biggest and your best players to come through and it’s nice to see some of these guys stepping up and getting some wins.”
Goaltending was critical all weekend long but never more so than Sunday where St. Cloud needed every one of Dahlmeir’s 33 saves to pick up the win in regulation and Kautz, a former NAHL netminder himself, talked about the play of Dahlmeir and Tomáš Boľo from the crease. “I thought both of them (Dahlmeir and Boľo) did a really good job, and in order to win in this league and in our division, we need to keep pucks out of the net because sometimes it can be tough to score,” Kautz reasons. “I thought both of them did exactly what they needed to do and helped us find a way to win games and make big saves in big moments to keep things close and keep us in the lead. We needed both of them over the weekend to get three wins and I was very pleased with how they handled it and how they did.”
The victory propels the Norsemen into current sole ownership of the last playoff spot in the Central Division standings, but they’re also just two points out of the second place spot, which would come with home ice advantage in the first round of the postseason.
One of the teams nipping at their heels, the Bismarck Bobcats, who are just a single point back, come to town this weekend for a crucial two-game series. Puck drops on Friday and Saturday night at 7:00 pm and at Saturday’s game you’ll get a chance to bid on the game-worn black jersey from last season of Edina, MN native and defenseman Wyatt Wurst. Tickets for both games can be purchased at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.