The Aberdeen Wings’ Friday matchup against the North Iowa Bulls was perhaps the most back-and-forth game the Wings have played this season — and after twelve regulation goals and one more in a shootout, Aberdeen took the 7-6 win over the Bulls inside Mason City Arena.
North Iowa was on the board first, and early, when Logan Dombrowsky got past Wings goaltender Dominik Wasik just 1:02 into the game. But the Wings were quick to respond at the 3:21 mark when Devon Carlstrom sent a beautiful pass to Jackson Yee, who was waiting just outside the crease to put the puck over the shoulder of Bulls netminder Hudson Hodges, who was in goal for the first time with North Iowa after starting the season with the Austin Bruins. Yee notched his eighth goal of the season, while Carlstrom grabbed his sixth assist, and Seamus Campbell racked up his ninth.
The Bulls gave themselves a cushion scoring two more times in the first half of the opening period — Tyler Braccini got the go-ahead at the 4:16 mark and Justin Mexico widened the gap at the 9:17 mark. But the Wings responded quickly once again when Ronan Walsh skated into the Bulls zone leading a 3-on-1 attack, took the shot, and Owen DuBois was there to grab the rebound and put it away in the top corner at the 10:29 mark. DuBois got his fifth goal of the year, while Walsh picked up his sixth assist on the season.
The Wings tied things up at the 16:34 mark in the first when DuBois took a shot on goal, grabbed his own rebound and fed it from behind the net to an awaiting Campbell, who saw the open backdoor and buried his shot. Campbell got his tenth goal of the season, while DuBois notched his eleventh assist and Walsh grabbed his second of the game and seventh overall.
Jack Mesic got the Bulls back on top at the 17:51 mark, but the Wings refused to back down, answering back again in the period’s final minute. Chase Davis poked the puck loose in front of North Iowa’s net and DuBois came flying in, firing from between the circles to tie the game once again with just 52 seconds on the clock. It was DuBois’ second goal of the game, sixth overall, while Davis picked up his eighth assist on the year.
After 20 minutes of penalty-free hockey, North Iowa outshot the Wings 16-14, with each team finding the back of the net four times.
The Wings got their first lead of the game early in the second period when Campbell stole the puck in the Bulls’ zone and skated in and around Hodges at the 1:48 mark. The unassisted goal was his second of the game and eleventh overall.
The back-and-forth continued when Dombrowsky got his second goal of the game, tying the score at five apiece at the 5:16 mark, seconds after the Wings killed off their first penalty of the night. The Bulls went on the power play again a minute later, but Aberdeen’s penalty kill unit continued to prove why they’re the best in the league. Playing a man down, Carlstrom skated into the Bulls’ zone and found Hugo Allais coming in fast; he grabbed the pass and backhanded it over Hodges’ shoulder at the 7:29 mark to give the Wings the 6-5 lead. It was the French defenseman’s fifth goal on the season, while Carlstrom grabbed his second of the game and seventh overall, and Davis recorded his second of the game and eighth overall.
After the goal, Hodges was replaced by Hunter Garvey between the pipes. Neither team managed to score again in the period, but the Wings did take another penalty late in the middle stanza, which led to a third penalty kill to start the final period.
Aberdeen stepped up to kill the penalty, but Brett Morich got one past Wasik at the 12:14 to tie the game for the sixth time. Aberdeen never saw a power play opportunity themselves, and when the final horn sounded the teams headed into overtime hockey. And after five minutes of scoreless three-on-three hockey, the fate of the game landed in a shootout, the second between the two teams this season.
Both of Aberdeen’s first shooters, Campbell and Schmuck, were denied, as were both of North Iowa’s first shooters, Dylan Gajewski and Michael Mesic. But Wings captain Kyle Gaffney fired a rocket past Garvey and Wasik denied third skater Carter Rapalje, completing the shootout and leading the wings to the 7-6 victory and two imporant league points.
“I was happy with that,” Wings head coach Steve Jennings said about his team’s tenacity. “It showed their character. Early in the season, I’m not sure that we had the grit to push back and stay in the fight. I was happy to see that.”
Aberdeen carried an unusual lineup into Friday’s matchup, with two players sitting out due to suspensions and others battling illness and injury. In fact, two defensemen, Bauer Barry and Parks Wallace, switched positions to play as forwards. But Jennings was happy with how his team has been stepping up to still find the win.
“They’re doing a really good job with the ‘next up’ mentality,” he said. “Having two suspensions made it a tougher night but I’m glad to see the group not seeing it as an excuse.”
The Wings didn’t get a chance on the power play but went a perfect 3-3 on the penalty kill, improving to an impressive league-leading 91.2 percent on the kill. Overall, the Wings were edged out in shots on goal 39-36, with Wasik stopping 33 plus all three shootout tries.
“Dom made some very big saves down the stretch and in overtime to help us get the win,” Jennings said of his goalie. “He was tremendous in the shootout.”
Aberdeen (now 17-12-0-2) will look to get the weekend sweep and two more coveted league points Saturday when they face the Bulls (15-11-1-3) once again inside Mason City Arena; the puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m. Fans can watch the game using their HockeyTV login or live at Buffalo Wings & Rings in Aberdeen, the official home for all Wings away games. The game’s audio is broadcast via Hub City Radio’s 94.1 The Rock, or on The Rock app.
Jennings said he’d like to see a few changes in the Saturday game in order to see a happy bus trip home to the Hub City.
“We need a better start. Giving up the first period goal early deflated us momentarily, but I was happy to see the ‘answer back’ mentality starting to take root,” he said. “We didn’t get a single power play tonight and I want us to work harder to make that happen.”