The Morning Skate 2-17
FRIDAY, FEB. 17 – 7:10 P.M., WILLMAR CIVIC CENTER (WILLMAR, MINN.)
SATURDAY, FEB. 18 – 7:10 P.M., WILLMAR CIVIC CENTER (WILLMAR, MINN.)
NORTH IOWA BULLS (29-8-1, 59 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
@ WILLMAR WARHAWKS (18-18-3, 39 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
IN A NUTSHELL: The final road trip of the regular season takes the defending NA3HL champs to Willmar for the very first time.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 39-1-1 (Bulls have won 38 straight in the series – last loss: Nov. 18, 2011).
LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: North Iowa’s second regular-season series with the Rochester Ice Hawks ended much the same way as the first – with six Bulls victories in six tries. The Ice Hawks came into Mason City last Friday night and took a 3-2 lead into the final seconds of the second period, before Josh Arnold‘s tally with two seconds remaining tied the game heading to the third. Brendan Studioso wrapped up the scoring in the 4-3 victory, scoring with just 8:05 left in the game. Saturday’s game wasn’t quite as close – Drew Schenkenberg was chased from the contest just 10:10 in, following first-period goals from Mitch Dolter, Marshall Barnes and Studioso. Arnold and Braxton Collins would add markers of their own in the second period of a 5-1 win that saw the Bulls rip off 60 shots on an overmatched Rochester defense. Brady Meyers earned both wins, coming on in relief of Drew Scites for the win on Friday and then earning a complete-game victory on Saturday. Meyers stopped 23 of the 24 shots against him over that game-and-a-half.
NEXT HOME GAME: The Bulls are on the road until Friday, Mar. 3 and Saturday, Mar. 4 as the St. Louis Jr. Blues visit “The Barn” to start a six-game homestand.
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.
BACK-TO-BACK IN THE BARN: After ending the first half of the season as one of the hottest and most reliable scorers in the NA3HL, Marshall Barnes has been a bit slower to get on the scoreboard in 2017. He hit the stat sheet with a flurry last weekend against Rochester, though – the Edina, Minnesota native posted five points, including his first two goals of the calendar year. He’s had the Ice Hawks’ number this year – each of the six meetings between the teams has featured a multi-point outing from Barnes, and he had three assists over the home weekend against Willmar in November.
SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE: Time is beginning to run out on the Willmar WarHawks’ playoff chances in the West Division, but there is still time for Chris Blaisius’s team to make a late move out of the bottom spot in the standings. Willmar trails New Ulm by eight points with eight games to go, leaving the Steel’s magic number at 10 points. Attaining those 10 points may not be easy, though – the two teams will meet up with each other twice in the final four weeks of the regular season, including once on the final week of the season in Willmar.
A WARM WILLMAR WELCOME: In their sixth year in the league, the Bulls will make a long-awaited first road trip this weekend to the city of Willmar, Minnesota. The first 39 meetings between these two teams featured the Bulls against the Minnesota Flying Aces, who played out of Little Falls, and the weekend set against Willmar in November was played in Mason City. It’s the second and last time this year Todd Sanden’s team will play on a new rink for the very first time.
NICE GUYS (ARE ON PACE TO) FINISH LAST: The officials in this weekend’s contests may not have a whole lot to keep them occupied – the WarHawks haven’t exactly been war-like this year, averaging just 16 penalty minutes per game (sixth from the bottom of the NA3HL). They’ll play a North Iowa squad at the top of the Central Division whose 21 minutes a game in the sin bin is also in the bottom half of the league’s infraction list.
STAY CLOSE: That will be a big goal tonight for Blaisius’s team against a North Iowa squad that still ranks among the best in the league. The third period has been by far the best of the three for the WarHawks, including a 52-goal mark for the offense that ranks far above either of the other two stanzas. Willmar has also out-shot its opposition in the third period, something it can’t say about either the first or second periods. The WarHawks are 10-2-0 when tied after the first period and are 5-2-0 with a second-intermission tie, and their two games this year against the Bulls were each two-goal affairs. In one-goal games, they’ve rarely come up empty, earning points in nine of 12 outings.