National Championship Game
Boston Jr. Bruins 4 vs. North Iowa Bulls 1 – The remarkable two-year run for the North Iowa Bulls atop the Tier III junior world came to an end on Monday night as they fell in the National Championship Game to the Boston Jr. Bruins, 4-1.
It certainly wasn’t easy for the Bruins early on. North Iowa, repeat champions of the NA3HL, came out flying and held the majority of attack zone time on the Bruins. The Bulls then deepened the concern by scoring the first goal, off the stick of Tim Santopoalo, assisted by Ron Lindgren at 13:53 of the first. Santopoalo scored on a nice breakaway move.
The Jr. Bruins would finally break out late in the 1st period and they would not look back. First, with 1:50 remaining, Vincent Russo scored on the power play (assisted by Ryan Cloonan and Brian Bowen). That gave Boston plenty of energy going into the second, where they tripled the damage.
After an even first 10 minutes of that second stanza, Cloonan put one home at even strength. Linemates Russo and Bowen assisted on that one at 12:20 of the second. John Picking then took over as he scored goals at 14:07 and with 18 seconds left. George Mika and goalie Sean Lawrence assisted on the first one, and McKernan assisted on the second.
“In the second, we got on our heels,” said Bulls head coach Todd Sanden. “They got the late one and I felt, even at the time, that was a goal we couldn’t give up. It ended up being so because we didn’t get any back in the third. “If this is a series, I think some games are won and lost. But it’s a one-game deal and I’ve been on the other side of this, too,” Sanden added.
The Junior Bruins had many heroes throughout the tournament. Alex Brink finished as the second leading scorer in the tournament with nine points. Holding the lead to the end was the Bulls’ Rihard Marenis, with 11 points.
For Sanden and the Bulls, it was shaping up to be an even longer trip home than simple geography might dictate. As the team stayed together in the locker room for the last time, the Runner-Up Trophy rested on the floor outside the door. It wasn’t welcome inside.
“That’s not what we’re here to do. We appreciate the opportunity to be able to get here, but we’re here to win it,” he added. “You have to give credit to the Boston Junior Bruins. We knew this was going to be a game where we had to be really good. I thought some penalties cost us a bit. Killing penalties against that team wears your guys down, as we use some of our key guys on both the power play and the penalty kill.”
As big a game as it was, it won’t make or break the Bulls season. “It was a great season. We set all kinds of records in our league, including points and scoring records that will see a long time before they’re challenged,” Sanden added. “That’s a testament to the kind of kids we have. But I wish I was in the other room right now.”