After playing catch-up with the North Iowa Bulls for two periods, the L/A Nordiques took over in final frame.

L/A scored three times in the final 20 minutes en route to a 7-4 win at the Seven Bridges Arena in Woodridge, Illinois. The win clinches first place for the Nordiques in Pool A of the pool play portion of the NA3HL Fraser Cup tournament.

“We were able to answer the call each time, which was exciting for me as a coach,” L/A Nordiques coach Cam Robichaud said of the Nordiques battling back when they were down. “It was showing our group was willing to be mentally tough and continue to battle when things got rough.”

Now the Nordiques await their opponent for Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Pool B’s runner-up at 4 p.m.

Valeri Rykov provided a spark offensively with a goal and three helpers, while Sergei Anisimov and Sam Frechette each had two goals and a helper.

Matt Rozman opened the scoring for the Bulls at 14:11 mark. He later made the score 2-1 for the Bulls at the 18:23 mark. Nick Bowlin had an assist on each goal.

Anisimov tied the game for the Nordiques at the 15:27 mark of the period, with Rykov and JP Chauvin setting up the tally.

After Rozman made it 2-1, the Nordiques went on the power play when Brendan Studioso was sent to the box for tripping at the 18:40 mark.

With just six seconds left in the first period, Cole Ouellette notched his second goal of the tournament to tie the contest at 2-2 heading into the intermission. It was the second time this playoffs there was an all-Lewiston Blue Devils goal, as high school teammates Joe Bisson and Frechette had the assists.

The first time it happened was in game one against Long Beach in the opening round of the Coastal Division playoffs. Alex Rivet scored and Ouellette and Bisson had the helpers.

Ouellette’s goal settled things down for the Nordiques.

“It allowed the guys to come into the locker room in a positive upbeat manner, feeling like we have the momentum and on a bit of a high,” Robichaud said. “Rather than coming in down by one after the first period, it was a huge boost in morale.”

The second period was a lot like the first.

Jack Giddings gave North Iowa a 3-2 lead at the 9:14 mark. Frechette then tied the game up a little more than a minute later.

Daniel Miller, who started the game in goal for the Nordiques, was pulled after North Iowa went up 4-3 at the 14:20 mark when Harrison Stewart found the back of the net.

Robichaud said he went with Miller because Miller does well in big games, and he liked how Miller played against the Granite City Lumberjacks at the NA3HL Showcase in December when he made 37 saves in a 2-1 loss.

Robichaud said Miller is fighting a lower body injury throughout the playoffs, and that he pulled him Thursday because he didn’t like the way Miller was moving the crease.

Miller made 18 saves on 22 chances. Andrew Ghimpeteanu relieved Miller and also made 18 saves.

After the goalie change, Anisimov scored his second goal of the game, set up by Rykov and Zach Mullen, with 4:34 remaining in the second period.

Rykov gave L/A its first lead of the contest just before the three-minute mark of the third period off an assist by Anisimov. Rykov picked up his third helper of the game as Mullen made it 6-4 at the 7:03 mark.

Robichaud liked how the Russians, Rykov and Anisimov, played Thursday compared to Wednesday’s game against Helena.

Robichaud said the message in the second intermission was to continue to outwork the Bulls and try to wear them down as much as possible.

Mullen’s goal sparked the end of Dysen Skinner’s (22 saves) night in goal for North Iowa. His backup, Evan Babekuhl, made eight saves.

Frechette added his second goal of the game on the power play with 4:42 remaining. The Nordiques went 2-for-4 with the man advantage, while North Iowa didn’t have a power play chance.

“Sam Frechette has been one of our best forwards here,” Robichaud said. “He’s typically is one of our better forwards in these tough games against better competition. He doesn’t always end up on the score sheet, he’s a good two-way player, but today I am glad to see him get rewarded for his efforts, popping in a couple huge goals for us.”

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