THIS WEEKEND’S GAMES:
FRIDAY – Peoria @ North Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY – Peoria @ North Iowa, 7:30 p.m.
BULLS vs. PEORIA ALL-TIME: 14-5-0
A FIVE-STEP PROGRAM: A combination of five wins this week for North Iowa and the Central Division’s St. Louis Jr. Blues will wrap up the West Division race, and the Bulls took the first step with Tuesday’s win at Willmar. Should the Bulls win all three remaining games against Peoria and Willmar this week, a single St. Louis win over the second-place Granite City Lumberjacks this weekend would seal the West Division title ahead of the Bulls’ weekend in Sauk Rapids to close out the regular season.
A THREE-HORSE RACE: While the Bulls have their eye on a West Division title, these games could mark a major milestone in the division race as well. A win in either Friday or Saturday’s game would give the Bulls 70 points, enough to lock up home-ice advantage in the first round of the Fraser Cup playoffs. The New Ulm Steel currently sit in third place with 14 straight wins, and can reach a maximum of 69 points if they continue to win out over the season’s final two weeks.
A BUCK-AND-A-HALF: The Bulls’ two most-tenured players are on milestone watch again this weekend, as the regular season begins to wind down. Should he play in all three games this weekend, Cam Fagerlee will tie Brendan Studioso for the second-most games ever in a North Iowa uniform (125). He recently crossed the 150-point threshold for his Bulls career, only the fourth player to reach that mark. Matt Dahlseide is just a point away from 150 in his own North Iowa career, after notching 16 points during a half-season run with the Alexandria Blizzard during the 2017-18 campaign. With 97 career assists as a Bull, he also finds himself within striking distance of the century mark in that category, and Tim Santopoalo’s top-three mark on the team’s all-time list (101).
LOCK IT DOWN: Scoring opportunities may come at a premium for both teams in this weekend’s contests – two of the league’s most stout defenses will match up Friday and Saturday. To date, both teams have allowed fewer than 26 shots per game, with both teams within the league’s top six.
PLAYING FROM AHEAD: Gaining the lead is always important (and it’s even better if you can finish the game with a lead!), but the team with the early momentum may be in an even better position in these games. When leading after two periods, North Iowa has not surrendered a single regulation loss this season, and allowing only an overtime loss to New Ulm over the Thanksgiving weekend. Peoria has not won a game this year when trailing at either intermission, and picked up a point in only two of those games via a shootout loss.