FRIDAY – Helena vs. North Iowa, 4:00 p.m.
COVERAGE: HockeyTV (video/$)
BULLS vs. HELENA ALL-TIME: 2-0-0 (1-0-0 in NA3HL play)
2019-20 SEASON TICKETS NOW AVAILABLE: Season tickets are now available for 2019-20, the ninth season of North Iowa Bulls hockey. Early-bird discounts are available through May 1. For more information on North Iowa Bulls season tickets, click here.
NOW THAT’S A LONG GAME: North Iowa and Helena have met twice before, but only once in league play. The first game between the teams came six years ago, in the Bulls’ first-ever appearance at the USA Hockey national tournament, in the longest game in franchise history. Helena scored two out of the gate and took a 2-0 lead to the second period, but goals from Matt Kroska and Tim Santopoalo within 90 seconds of the second intermission. Finally, with 3:55 left in the second overtime, James Hughes buried the game-winner after more than 96 minutes of play. Both goaltenders went the distance, with Matt Bartels making 59 saves in the win. Alex Lazarski faced 75 Bulls shots in the loss. The Helena Bighorns qualified for the tournament out of the former American West Hockey League.
SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN: The two teams met three months ago at the NA3HL Showcase, with the Bulls earning a 6-2 win. Just as in their previous meeting, the Bighorns got on the board first with a goal from Luc Cross just over three minutes in. Back-to-back goals from Jimmy McDermott and Jarod Blackowiak put the Bulls on top before Darren Donovan’s tying goal halfway through the second. Nick Johnson’s second goal as a Bull gave his team the lead for good, with Evan Babekuhl posting 14 saves for the win.
L/A LAUNCHES INTO THE SEMIS: Lewiston/Auburn has beaten both the Bulls and Bighorns, clinching the number-one spot in the pool and a spot in Saturday’s 3 p.m. game. This game serves as a de facto quarterfinal, with one of the two semifinalists out of the afternoon pool already decided. The winner of this game plays the winner of tonight’s 7 p.m. game between Texas and St. Louis, with a 6 p.m. puck drop at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena.
LIKE LOOKING INTO A MIRROR: Today’s game matches up a pair of teams with proud histories at the Tier III level, in markets where they are each the star of the show. North Iowa has won national titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016, while Helena earned a USA Hockey title in 2011 as a member of the Northern Pacific Hockey League. Each team plays in a city of just under 30,000 residents – the Montana state capital has had junior hockey since 1994, when the Helena Ice Pirates first appeared in the former America West Hockey League. The North Iowa Huskies first represented Mason City on the ice, in the USHL in 1983.