September 10, 2021 – 7:30 p.m.
September 11, 2021 – 3:00 p.m.
Mason City Arena – Mason City, IA
ABERDEEN WINGS (0-0-0)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (0-0-0-0)
ROSTER: NORTH IOWA | ABERDEEN
STATISTICS: NORTH IOWA | ABERDEEN
LIVE STATS: None
BULLS vs. ABERDEEN ALL-TIME: 0-0-0
WHAT HAPPENED WEDNESDAY: The North Iowa Bulls took the ice for the first time as a North American Hockey League team on Wednesday evening, dropping a 7-3 preseason exhibition against a talented Shattuck-St. Mary’s squad with a half-dozen NCAA Division I commitments already in hand. The Bulls rested three of their four committed Division I players, icing a younger group with a few NA3HL veterans mixed in from the Mason City Toros. Will Whitelaw and Sebastien Brockman had two goals apiece for the visitors, while Justin Mexico had the only multi-point game for the Bulls.
WHAT ABOUT THE WINGS: The Aberdeen Wings have seen the peak of the Robertson Cup mountain, and will look to stake their claim again in 2021-22 after coming up just short of the summit last season. The Wings went 51-4-1, setting a league record for wins despite all teams in the league playing a schedule shorter than 58 games for the first time since 2004-05. Only a 4-2 championship-game loss to the Shreveport Mudbugs kept Aberdeen from bringing the Cup back to South Dakota. After sending 16 players to NCAA hockey programs, however, the turnover will be significant – 11 of the top 12 scorers from last season are gone. They’ll also have to replace NAHL MVP Jake Sibell, and do it all under a new coach, as Steve Jennings moves into the head coaching role after previously serving as the Wings’ Director of Player Personnel.
NEW GAME: This preseason game begins what will be a season-long trend of new opponents from new locales as the Bulls begin their second decade on the ice. The last time North Iowa hosted NAHL hockey was in 2009-10, and only two teams who existed that year – the Bismarck Bobcats and Kenai River Brown Bears – will play the Bulls this season.
LET’S GET TOGETHER: The Bulls and Wings have gotten together in the preseason under different circumstances, but it’s certainly been a while. The last time North Iowa faced Aberdeen, they did so as an NA3HL team in the 2018 preseason – Jordan Roo scored the Bulls’ only goal in a 7-1 loss that Friday night, and the following night’s outing went the Wings’ way by a 9-0 tally. The get-together itself was a harbinger of good things to come for both teams, though: North Iowa would reach the Fraser Cup semifinals that spring, while Aberdeen would go on to win their first-ever Robertson Cup national title.
AMARILLO SKY: Last year’s Amarillo Bulls team enjoyed a solid finish in its final season in the Panhandle, tying with the Wichita Falls Warriors with 67 points in 56 games and landing the South Division’s final playoff spot. After a 4-1 blowout of the Shreveport Mudbugs in Game 1 of the South Division semifinals, though, the Mudbugs won three straight one-goal games to knock Amarillo out of the postseason. The biggest question mark going into 2021-22 is whether last year’s role players are ready to step in as this year’s standouts – seven of the top nine scorers are gone, including all of the team’s top four. Greg Japchen (55 games, 26 points) is the top scorer to make the move with the team to Mason City – however, three goalies bring back 20 of the team’s 29 wins, plus North Iowa will enjoy the services of NA3HL Fraser Cup MVP Carsen Stokes, who allowed four goals in 241 minutes to lead the “Baby Bulls” to their fourth national championship.