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Series Preview: North Iowa Bulls vs. Rochester Ice Hawks

NA3HL CENTRAL DIVISION SEMIFINALS

The Morning Skate 3-17

FRIDAY, MAR. 17 – 7:30 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA)
SATUR
DAY, MAR. 18 – 7:05 P.M., ROCHESTER RECREATION CENTER (ROCHESTER, MINN.)
*SUNDAY, MAR. 19 – 5:00 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA) (if necessary)

ROCHESTER ICE HAWKS (10-36-1, 21 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (35-10-2, 72 pts) (ROSTERSTATS)

 

IN A NUTSHELL: The playoffs begin in the Central Division this weekend with the division semifinals, as the Bulls and Ice Hawks embark on a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup.

ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads Rochester, 14-0-0 (two one-goal wins for Bulls this season).

 

LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: North Iowa came out of a Friday-Saturday set against the Peoria Mustangs dead even before riding a hot start to a season-ending win over the La Crosse Freeze. After going 30 minutes without a goal on Friday and leading for all of three minutes in the second period, a pair of Sean Mallonee goals powered North Iowa to a 3-2 win on Friday. Mallonee’s shorthanded tally 12 seconds into the third period gave North Iowa a lead they’d never relinquish. On Saturday, Braden Stewart and Austin Wisely scored to push the Mustangs to a 2-1 win, spoiling Seth Eisele‘s junior debut in goal. He took the loss despite stopping 23 of the Mustangs’ 25 chances. Brady Meyers earned his first win in a month in Sunday’s 5-2 triumph over La Crosse, but the star of the night was Tyler Bump, who gave the Bulls a lead just 5:30 into the contest on the way to his first junior hat trick. Mitch Parsons tallied the game-winner, his first goal of any kind in six weeks.

THIS WEEK’S PROMOTIONS: One last time this year, Todd Sanden’s team will sport specialty jerseys, this time designed by Sanden himself to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. We’ll also celebrate the start of the playoffs with a pregame tailgate, starting at 5:45 p.m., and the first 100 fans in the door will receive Bulls rally towels.

COVERAGE: All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live at HockeyTV.com. All home games and select road games are also audio-streamed at no charge through Mixlr – click the “Listen Live” link at NorthIowaBulls.com, or click here.

 

GAME NOTES

GET READY TO MATCH THE STARS: Two of the last three Bauer Hockey NA3HL Central Division Stars of the Week will be playing in this weekend’s matchup. The Bulls landed a Star of the Week honor this week with Tyler Bump, who notched five goals over the three-game weekend, including at least one in each game and his first hat trick in 87 games in the North American Hockey League and NA3HL. Rochester’s Charles Bill was the Star of the Week two weeks ago after a five-point weekend against the Chicago Bulldogs.

SWEET CAROLINE (BUMP BUMP BUMP): Bump’s short time with the Bulls ranks as one of the greatest single-season paces in team history – he has played in 16 games since coming to “The Barn” from the Minnesota Magicians, but he’s scored 16 goals in that short time. Only three other North Iowa players (Brett Gravelle, Timothy Santopaolo and Rihards Marenis) have ever scored at least a goal a game when playing in 16 or more games in a year (essentially, one-third of a full season).

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN: The 10-36-1 record for the Ice Hawks matches exactly the record from their NA3HL debut season last season, and the head-to-head records haven’t changed a ton either. Rochester finished 0-6-0 once again against North Iowa and 2-6-0 against La Crosse (1-6-1 last year). After finishing 1-7-0 against Wisconsin last year, though, the Ice Hawks bumped their record to 3-2-1 this year against the Whalers. Rochester won just two games outside of the Central Division in each season.

DOGGONE IT, PEOPLE LIKE US: The run atop the NA3HL attendance chart for North Iowa is now at six years, after the defending national champs drew an average of 871 fans in their 23 home games for the season. Excluding the Bulls’ “home” game at the NA3HL Showcase against the Metro Jets, they drew an average of 901 fans a game to the North Iowa Ice Arena. It’s the fourth straight season that the Bulls have averaged 900 fans or more per game in the “Madhouse in Mason City.”

SEEDING MEETING: North Iowa’s 72 points in the regular season all but locked up no worse than a #6 seed in the Silver Cup national championship tournament, should the Bulls make it through the Central Division playoffs. The Bulls and Long Beach Sharks each finished with 35-10-2 records and did not play each other this season, but North Iowa won more games in regulation and more in regulation and overtime, and had a better overall goal differential than the Sharks. Among non-division champions, only Great Falls and Atlanta could qualify for the Silver Cup championship without improving the Bulls’ seed at the tournament.

THE SIN BIN: Rochester has certainly mixed it up with their opponents over the course of the season – the Ice Hawks’ 26 penalty-minutes a game is in the top quarter of the league, but the 27.5 penalty minutes a game incurred by their opponents ranks in the league’s top five. The teams split 110 penalty minutes in their last meeting in Mason City, a 4-3 Bulls win on Feb. 10

DO IT FIRST, DO IT BEST: The opening goal of the game has been scored just 11 times by Rochester this season, but of their 10 wins this season, eight have come after scoring the opening goal of the game. The Bulls are 28-3-1 after scoring the opening goal, but sport just a .500 record when starting from behind.

MIDDLEMEN: There isn’t a team in the league that can claim to be as hot over a 20-minute span as the Bulls have been in the second period – North Iowa’s 116 goals in the second period is the highest number of any team over a single period this season. That mark has only been topped three times in the Bulls’ existence – all of them by the Bulls, and all in the second period.

PUT IT ON NET, SEE WHAT YOU GET: This series will match up one of the league’s most prolific offenses against one of its least – North Iowa scored 5.7 goals a game this year, good for the number-4 mark in the league. Their opponents have put just 2.15 biscuits in the basket per game, fifth from the bottom of the league, and their 25.9 shots per game is the third-lowest output on the 48-team circuit.

COMEBACK KIDS?: Neither team has been prone to big comebacks this year, but their big second-period spurts have helped the Bulls forge a wider path after a first-intermission deficit. North Iowa is 1-7-1 when trailing after two periods, but is 5-7-0 when trailing after one. Rochester’s history is a 2-32-0 mark when trailing after 40 minutes, and 0-23-0 when trailing after 20.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow the North Iowa Bulls all season long through the team’s official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages.