NA3HL SILVER CUP TOURNAMENT
Bulls Daily 3-29
SILVER CUP SHOW PODCAST:
WEDNESDAY, MAR. 29 – 7:30 P.M., CANLAN ICE SPORTS (ROMEOVILLE, ILL.)
YELLOWSTONE QUAKE (40-4-3, 83 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (35-10-2, 72 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
IN A NUTSHELL: For the second year in a row, the Bulls and Quake will match up on the opening night at the NA3HL’s Silver Cup national championship tournament.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads Yellowstone 1-0-0 (only meeting: 6-2 Bulls win last year in Romeoville).
LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: The La Crosse Freeze made life tough for North Iowa last weekend in the NA3HL Central Division finals, but the Bulls prevailed in a couple of tight contests and are on to the Silver Cup tournament for the fifth year in a row. The Bulls headed into the second period of Friday’s game down 2-1 before Brendan Studioso buried a pair of second-period goals to take a 3-2 lead with five minutes left to the intermission. After a tying goal from La Crosse’s Connor Losen, Jake Joyaux‘s power-play goal with under a minute left before the intermission stood as the winner in a 5-3 final. Saturday’s game was the Connor Clemons show – the Bulls’ leading goal-scorer in the regular season picked up a pair of goals, including a go-ahead tally with 16:01 left in the game. After another tying goal from Donny Schultz, Joyaux’s power-play blast from the right wing caught Mitch Dolter in front for a deflection and the eventual series-winner with 6:53 to play in a 3-2 Bulls victory. Drew Scites picked up both wins, taking the victory in nine of his last 10 outings.
THIS WEEKEND’S TOURNAMENT: North Iowa will play in Pool B at the Silver Cup tourney, facing the Yellowstone (Wyo.) Quake tonight at 7:30 p.m. The two newcomers from last year’s NA3EHL are also on the schedule this week, with the Bulls facing Binghamton (N.Y.) on Thursday at 7:30 and Long Beach (N.Y.) on Friday at 7:30. 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 on HockeyTV. Silver Cup tournament games will be streamed exclusively on HockeyTV. 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.
IN A WOOD, TWO PATHS DIVERGED: While North Iowa’s path to the division championship involved a two-game sweep of La Crosse, Great Falls nearly made it to their third straight Silver Cup tournament, taking the Quake to overtime in Game 3 of their Frontier Division series. In Saturday night’s title game, Cosimo Yapello buried the game-winner six minutes into the extra session to send the crowd of 500 in Cody, Wyoming into a frenzy and send Yellowstone to its second straight Silver Cup tournament.
BUS LEGS: This trip will be, by far, the longest of the season for the Yellowstone Quake in terms of mileage. According to Google Maps, 1,313 miles and more than 19 hours of driving separate Cody’s Riley Arena and Canlan Ice Sports in Romeoville, Illinois. The Bulls’ trip isn’t quite that long, but the North Iowa and Chicagoland areas aren’t exactly across the street – the 370-mile trip from the North Iowa Ice Arena is the second-longest trip the Bulls have made this year.
GETTING IT DONE WITH A DOZEN: Ryan Theros’s team will be looking for its first-ever Silver Cup victory after going 0-3 last year in Romeoville. This year’s team may be the team to do it, though – a dozen players have returned to Yellowstone from a year ago, and several others have come to the team from other junior squads. One of those players – Max Meyer – was with the Twin City Steel last year at the Silver Cup tourney. He did not appear in the postseason but spent 18 games with the Steel during the regular season.
FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE: Tonight’s contest is likely to be an offensive battle between two of the top-scoring teams in the NA3HL this season – the Quake finished third in the regular-season scoring race with 291 goals (6.2 per game), while the Bulls were right behind with 268 goals (5.7 per game). Special-teams scoring will also be huge – Yellowstone’s 31.4-percent mark on the power play was the fourth-best in the league, and North Iowa’s was no slouch at 26.6 percent (10th place). The Bulls will hope to catch a bit of a break from Yellowstone’s penalty kill – at 82.2 percent, their penalty-killing mark ranks “only” 18th out of the league’s 48 teams.
BALANCE IN BUNCHES: Both teams will roll out some impressive lineups in this contest, but it may just be the balance that headlines tonight’s matchup – eight different Quake players will come into tonight’s game with at least four points during the postseason, including Spanish import Pablo Pantoja with five goals in as many games. The Bulls also have eight players with at least four postseason points, and four of those players have at least three goals during the postseason. Having a couple of shorthanded goals on the postseason score sheet certainly won’t hurt either.
HOT IN HERE: It’s impossible to simply “back into” a Silver Cup bid, but the Bulls and Quake certainly won’t be accused of that. Yellowstone comes into the tournament with wins in 17 of their last 19 games, a streak that started after a couple of shootout losses to Great Falls in mid-January. Their two losses in those 19 games are their only regulation losses of 2017 so far. The winning streak for North Iowa right now is at five games, but they have won 12 of 15 since being swept at home by Granite City in early February. The Lumberjacks are also at this year’s tournament, playing in the late-afternoon pool.