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North Iowa Bulls Silver Cup Preview

NA3HL SILVER CUP CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT

 

WEDNESDAY, MAR. 30 – 7:00 P.M., CANLAN ICE SPORTS (ROMEOVILLE, ILL.)

NORTH IOWA BULLS (42-2-3, 87 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)
vs. YELLOWSTONE QUAKE (35-9-3, 73 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)

 

THURSDAY, MAR. 31 – 7:30 P.M., CANLAN ICE SPORTS (ROMEOVILLE, ILL.)

NORTH IOWA BULLS (42-2-3, 87 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)
vs. GREAT FALLS AMERICANS (34-11-2, 70 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)

 

FRIDAY, APR. 1 – 7:00 P.M., CANLAN ICE SPORTS (ROMEOVILLE, ILL.)

NORTH IOWA BULLS (42-2-3, 87 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)
vs. POINT MALLARD DUCKS (35-9-3, 73 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)

 

IN A NUTSHELL: Five games separate the Bulls from their third NA3HL Silver Cup championship in a four-year span. Pool play will take them up against the two Frontier Division qualifiers and South Division champ Point Mallard.

SILVER CUP HISTORY: North Iowa is 10-1 all-time in Silver Cup tournament play, winning the 2013 and ’14 titles with unbeaten runs through the tournament. Last year’s championship loss to Granite City remains the team’s only Silver Cup loss.

 

LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: A dominant home finale and a desperate third-period push wound up being the stories of last weekend’s Central Division championship series against the La Crosse Freeze. Ryan Durant backed in a goal just 59 seconds into Friday’s Game 1 at home against La Crosse, sliding one in underneath starter Will Graves. He was chased from the game after just 5:12 of play, allowing two goals on the first three shots of the game. None of the Bulls’ first-period scoring shots left the ice, and Brett Gravelle welcomed the Freeze back to the second-period ice in style by sniping in a goal just 15 seconds in. The Bulls went 4-for-7 on the power play, scoring on all three of their second-period chances. On Saturday, the Bulls’ penalty kill virtually disappeared, giving up power-play goals on both La Crosse opportunities. Ben Henderson’s tally with the extra man at 9:24 of the third period gave the Freeze a 3-1 lead, and that lead held up until 7:20 remained in the game. Tom Lindgren and Kohei Sato helped to eliminate the lead before an unassisted Sean Mallonee tally off of a turnover in the corner with 1:54 remaining gave North Iowa its final lead. Owen Larson walked in an empty-netter with 16 seconds on the clock to cap the comeback and give the victors their fourth straight divisional playoff title.

THIS WEEKEND’S TOURNAMENT: North Iowa will play in Pool A at the Silver Cup tourney, facing the Yellowstone (Wyo.) Quake on Wednesday at 7 p.m. A game against another Frontier Division foe, the Great Falls (Mont.) Americans, will follow at 7:30 on Thursday night. The final Pool A game for the Bulls sends them up against the Point Mallard (Ala.) Ducks Friday night at 7 p.m. The top two teams in each of the two pools will play in the semifinals Saturday afternoon, with a champion to be crowned Sunday afternoon at 1:00.

COVERAGE: All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live at FASTHockey.com. Silver Cup tournament games will be streamed exclusively on FASTHockey. Bulls play-by-play voice Austin Draude will have the call for all of the team’s games in Romeoville, starting about 10 minutes before the opening faceoff.

 

GAME NOTES

PLAYING AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL: The Bulls head into the Silver Cup tournament with good news on a former North Iowa goaltender. The Washington Capitals signed former Bulls goalie Adam Carlson to a two-year, entry-level National Hockey League contract on Monday, assigning him to the Hershey (Pa.) Bears of the American Hockey League on an Amateur Tryout assignment to finish the 2015-16 season. Carlson’s first junior game was a brief one, giving up two goals in 11 minutes in relief against Breezy Point on Sept. 22, 2012. Shortly afterward, Carlson was traded to the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Steele County Blades. His career would take him to the NAHL’s Coulee Region Chill and, eventually, NCAA Div. I Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania. Upon reaching the NHL, he would likely become the second active goalie on the circuit with North Iowa junior hockey ties. Former North Iowa Outlaw Scott Darling is currently with the Chicago Blackhawks, and led the team to three wins during last year’s Stanley Cup-winning run.

TOMMIE GUNNER: The NA3HL’s leading scorer in the regular season officially has a college home for next year. Brett Gravelle will attend St. Thomas University in the Twin Cities, playing for former Olympic hockey player Jeff Boeser. In all, six Bulls players have made their college decisions heading into the tournament. As of right now, he'll be the only former Bull on the Tommies' roster.

STILL GOING STREAKING: One momentous scoring streak mentioned in last week’s preview remains intact going into the Silver Cup tournament, while another came to a sudden halt last Saturday. Joe Burgmeier notched goals in both wins over La Crosse, extending his current goal-scoring streak to 11 games in a row, now the league’s longest of the season. As for Quinn Fuchs’s streak, the Minot, N.D. native went +2 without a point on Saturday in La Crosse, shutting down his assist streak at 13 games and his overall point-scoring streak at 16 games. 

HEAD TO HEAD: North Iowa is a combined 6-0 all-time against teams from the South Division and Frontier Division. Thursday’s game against Great Falls will be a rematch of last year’s Silver Cup pool game, which the Bulls won 6-1. Todd Sanden’s team beat Atlanta by that same score at this year’s NA3HL Showcase in December, and a 7-1 win against Dallas kicked off North Iowa’s run at the 2014 Silver Cup tourney. Two of those four wins against the South Division did not count in the official 3HL standings – the Bulls faced the then-Topeka Capitols during the 2013-14 season, a late enough addition to the schedule that the games only counted in the standings for the Capitols. The South Division began that year with only three teams, and was added after the release of the league schedule. Any games outside of the division that season were add-ons for the teams going up against their new NA3HL brethren, and thus were not counted as official games for the opposing teams.

MIDSEASON ACQUISITION: The Bulls will have to figure out one of the top goalies in the Frontier Division in their opening game in Romeoville. Garret Matz played nine games for the La Crosse Freeze before being moved to Yellowstone on Jan. 21. In his first game with the Quake, he shut out the Great Falls Americans, making 35 saves in a spotless performance. Despite playing all of the 2015 portion of the season with the Freeze, this would be his first career game against North Iowa.

IT’S NOT HOW YOU START…OR IS IT?: The first period has been a vital factor in deciding whether Great Falls walks away from a game with a victory – when leading or tied after the first 20 minutes of play, the Americans went 33-3-1 during the regular season (that record becomes 32-1-0 when leading or tied going into the third period). When trailing, though? That record drops to 1-8-1 after one period, and 2-10-2 when playing from behind going to the third. Great Falls failed to score the opening goal in 14 of their 47 regular-season games, and won only five of them.

GOOD TEAMS COME IN THREES: Point Mallard earned the right to play all of its South Division playoff games at home after earning the division’s top seed. The top three teams in the division all finished within a game of each other, and Texas was denied the division title thanks to a shootout loss to Louisiana on the season’s final day. The Louisiana Drillers were outshot by the Jr. Brahmas 57-17, but prevailed 2-1 in a season-ending shootout. The Ducks dominated their head-to-head series with Texas, winning all four meetings during the season. Only one went past the regulation 60 minutes.

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