THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES:
FRIDAY – Alexandria @ North Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY – North Iowa @ Alexandria, 7:10 p.m.
BULLS vs. ALEXANDRIA ALL-TIME: 26-6-2
THIS WEEKEND’S PROMOTIONS: The first 200 fans in the doors at Friday night’s game will receive a free pair of boom-sticks. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
AT LAST, A FIRST: This weekend’s series is new territory for the Alexandria Blizzard – it’s the first West Division final in franchise history, and it’s the first time that a fourth- seeded playoff team has ever knocked a regular-season division champion out in the opening round of the NA3HL playoffs. From 2012 to 2015, each of the West Division final series featured the Bulls and the Granite City Lumberjacks, who fell in a three-game series to Alexandria last weekend. Each of Granite City’s three division finals while North Iowa was in the Central Division came against the Twin City/New Ulm Steel franchise. Sunday’s 4-3 win in Sauk Rapids was only Alexandria’s third playoff win on the road in franchise history.
FORGIVE ME FOR BEING FORWARD…: North Iowa alumnus Sean Mallonee of Waldorf University in Forest City was chosen as this year’s NAIHA Forward of the Year after posting a team-high 22 points, including 11 goals despite the Warriors’ 5-20-2 final record. The Kennewick, Washington native was also chosen to the NAIHA’s first-team All-America list. Fellow Bulls alumnus Jake Mullendore of Midland University in Nebraska was a top-five scorer this season, leading the NAIHA in assists. The NAIHA is a group of six ACHA hockey programs, all at NAIA institutions, playing in their own division in hopes of renewing ice hockey as an NAIA championship sport.
WELCOME BACK: After playing only the fourth decisive Game 3 in franchise history, North Iowa is on to a division final for the eighth straight year. (This includes 2013, when each division had two qualifiers to the Silver Cup tournament.) The odds are in the Bulls’ favor – Todd Sanden’s team has only fallen behind in a series twice, and sent one of those series to a decisive third game. The loss to Rochester in Game 2 last weekend was the first division semifinal loss in team history, after winning its first 16 in a row.
FINISH STRONG: Last Friday’s win over Rochester was a first for North Iowa this year – going into the weekend, the Bulls had lost all 11 games in which it trailed with 20 minutes left. In Game 1, the Bulls trailed 2-1 entering the final period before three goals in the last six minutes propelled North Iowa to a 4-2 victory. The last Bulls win when trailing at the start of the third came in a 4-2 win over St. Louis last February, with the Bulls down 2-1 at the 40-minute mark.