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Bulls win again, but Lumberjacks stumble at Nationals

March 28, 2015
North Iowa Bulls 2 vs. Dells Ducks 1 - The North Iowa Bulls improved to 2-0 in round-robin play at the USA Hockey Tier III Junior National Championships with a 2-1 victory over the Dells Ducks at the International Skating Center of Connecticut on Saturday. “We did what we needed to do to give ourselves an opportunity to advance,” North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said. The prospect of North Iowa playing in its third consecutive national title game certainly looks promising after Saturday. North Iowa, which wraps up round-robin play against NA3HL West Division rival Granite City on Sunday at 5:15 p.m., is the only team in the 4-team bracket without a loss through two games after the Northern Cyclones defeated the Lumberjacks 6-3 on Saturday. The Cyclones are 1-1 after falling 3-1 to the Bulls on Friday while Granite City is also 1-1 following a 3-1 victory over the Ducks on Friday. A victory against Granite City would give the Bulls that third trip to the title game in as many seasons. A win also could prevent Granite City from reaching Monday’s 3 p.m. title game after the Lumberjacks edged the Bulls 3-2 to win the Silver Cup last Sunday. With several scenarios that could put his team in the title game, Sanden said Sunday’s game against the Lumberjacks – the 14th meeting between the two teams this season – won’t be treated any differently. “It’s just another hockey game that gives us an opportunity to advance to the championship,” Sanden said. On Saturday, the Bulls’ special teams led to both of their goals. First, Kohei Sato scored a short-handed goal on a Dells power play with an assist from Kurt Halbach 7 minutes, 6 seconds into the contest. In the second period, Jake Johnson added North Iowa’s second short-handed goal, putting the Bulls in front 2-0 with 4:33 remaining in the period. “Kohei popped that first one after beating their guy down the ice and going five-hole,” Sanden said. “We definitely wanted to be playing from ahead and Jake added to that lead.” Johnson’s goal would prove to be big as things got interesting in the final period as Josh Colleaux trimmed the lead to 2-1 with 4:53 remaining. However, Chris Amsden didn’t allow another goal, stopping 18 shots. “He’s been outstanding for us in this tournament,” Sanden said of Amsden, who improved to 6-1 between the pipes at the national tournament. Amsden’s counterpart, Sandro Aeschlimann, was peppered with 54 shots from North Iowa, recording 52 saves. Aeschlimann’s play earned the praise of Sanden. “Their goaltender was the best guy on the ice the entire game,” the coach said.
Northern Cyclones 6 vs. Granite City Lumberjacks 3 – The Northern Cyclones scored three special teams goals in a 6-3 win over Granite City. The result put each team’s record at 1-1 in the tournament. In order for Granite City to advance to the finals they would need to beat North Iowa and hope for a Northern Cyclones loss against the Dells Ducks on Sunday.  Granite City can also advance via tie-breakers if they beat North Iowa by a wide enough margin if Northern were to beat Dells resulting in three teams being 2-1.  They also would have an outside chance to advance if they were to lose and Dells were to beat Northern, but when three teams are tied and head-to-head is a wash, the first tie-breaker is goal differential. Granite City got goals in the 1st period from Tyler Mros and David Horsmann that tied the game at 2-2 after one period, but it was all Cyclones from that point on.  David Kenney added the other goal for Granite City. 
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