MASON CITY, IOWA–In a game where defenses and goaltending reigned supreme, the North Iowa Bulls narrowly defeated the Bismarck Bobcats 2-0 at Mason City Arena on Saturday.
The first 50 minutes passed without anything in the back of either net. North Iowa struck with 9:56 remaining on a net-front wrist shot from Nolan Abraham. Blake Ulve added an empty-netter with 12 seconds left to seal the deal.
“At the end of the day, you have to score to win,” head coach Layne Sedevie said. “We gave up two goals in two games. Nine times out of ten, you think you would get four points out of that. We make one mistake and leave a guy wide open in front of our net, and that was the difference.”
Including the Bulls’ empty net goal, each team scored just three total goals in the two-game series. Saturday’s game was much more even than Friday’s Bobcat-dominated contest.
While only two standings points resulted, the Bobcats delivered their best defensive performance all season with three goals against on 58 shots.
“(Defense) was definitely a lot better,” Sedevie said. “We gave up two goals. Garvey played well. He was solid. You are going to have breakdowns in a game, it is realistic. He made a couple of big saves each night. Our commitment to our defensive side was much better, too.”
Goaltender Hunter Garvey also turned in his best work all year. The former Bull, with his parents in attendance, posted a .965 save percentage on the weekend in his old home rink.
Unfortunately, the strong defensive work was paired with a season-low offensive output for one of the best goal-scoring teams in the North American Hockey League. The Bobcats underperformed relative to their ‘expected goals’ per analytics, but still generated good looks both nights.
“I do not think (the offense) was stagnant,” Sedevie said. “Pietila hits a pipe. Atchison has a great chance in front. Beaumont in the third. We had our chances, we just have to find a way.”
The Bobcats turn around to host North Iowa for a pair of games on Friday, January 13 and Saturday, January 14 at the VFW Sports Center. Tickets are on sale for all home games at tickets.bismarckbobcats.com.