THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES:
FRIDAY – Peoria @ North Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY – Peoria @ North Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
PEORIA MUSTANGS, 26-16-2-1 (ROSTER, STATS)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS, 30-12-3-0 (ROSTER, STATS)
COVERAGE: HockeyTV (video/$), Mixlr (audio/free)
BULLS VS. PEORIA ALL-TIME: 8-5-0
THIS WEEKEND’S PROMOTIONS: North Iowa wraps up its season-ending five-game homestand Friday and Saturday night with our Superhero Weekend, sponsored by Cent Credit Union, featuring a postgame jersey auction on Saturday to benefit My Happy Place in Mason City. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
JUST WIN, BABY:The magic number for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs next week is down to just three, meaning North Iowa is firmly in control of its own destiny down the stretch. There are several scenarios that would get the Bulls over the hump, but the simplest scenario is this: any North Iowa win this weekend plus any Rochester loss to Coulee Region gets the job done. It’s likely the Bulls could count on their former division rivals to do their part – the Chill have won seven straight heading into the final week of the regular season as they look to make their return to Chicago in a few weeks.
IT WAS ALWAYS IN THE CARDS: North Iowa has enjoyed its share of tender headlines and alumni call-ups this season, but Todd Sanden’s program finally has its first college commitment to report for this year: Dubuque native Jimmy McDermott will join the St. Mary’s University hockey and baseball programs next year in Winona, Minnesota. The Cardinals reached the Minnesota Conference semifinals this year before falling out against three-time defending champion Augsburg. More than 100 former North Iowa Bulls have played in the college ranks, including more than 70 who were Bulls when they made their commitments.
SPEAKING OF THE MIAC: The Minnesota Conference has released its all-conference teams for this season, and there are three former Bulls on the all-MIAC list for 2018-19. One is a future teammate of Jimmy McDermott’s at St. Mary’s, with Tommy Stang earning an all-conference nod. St. Thomas forward Brett Gravelle earned a slot for the second straight year, and Mario Bianchi closed his career with the Concordia Cobbers as an all-conference pick himself.
JUST GETTING WARMED UP: The two teams have already seen each other once this season, as North Iowa bookends its regular-season schedule against the Mustangs. In the inaugural game of the season, Tristan Trudel scored two goals in a 6-0 win, a game that included three Peoria goals in the opening nine-and-a-half minutes of the contest. However, the Bulls got their revenge the next afternoon in a 6-1 thrashing at the Owens Center – Matt Dahlseide scored the opening goal just 1:22 in, and Peter Verstegen started his second season as a Bull with a pair of goals.
BACK AT IT AGAIN: North Iowa’s win over the New Ulm Steel last weekend clinched another milestone for the program – it’s the seventh straight year that the Bulls have won at least 30 regular-season games. Even in their first season as members of the NA3HL in 2011-12, the Bulls went 29-15-4 and finished with 62 points. Peoria has already locked up its ninth straight postseason spot – the last time the Mustangs missed the postseason, the 2009-10 group finished 10th out of 13 teams in the Central States Hockey League, missing out on the chance to play for the Hurster Cup.