MASON CITY, Iowa – The North Iowa Bulls and Mason City Toros, proud members of the North American Hockey League and North American 3 Hockey League, are excited to announce that Bulls alumnus Kohei Sato has signed a professional contract with the Joensunn Kiekko-Pojat club to continue his hockey career in Finland this season. He becomes the 17th player in North Iowa Bulls history to claim a spot on a professional club since the team’s founding in the NA3HL in 2011.
“I’m really excited to go to Joensunn,” said Sato in a press release with his new club. “I want to help the team win the championship and at the same time develop as a player.”
Sato came to Mason City in 2014 after a two-year stint at the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland, Ontario, and immediately electrified North Iowa fans with his speed and scoring ability. He would lead the Bulls to a USA Hockey national championship in 2015, and returned from a three-game stretch with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights the following season to lead the Bulls to another NA3HL Silver (now Fraser) Cup championship. He even showcased his speed on the track while competing for Newman Catholic High School in Mason City, running for the Knights at the 2016 Iowa high school state track and field meet.
“Kohei came to us as a young player with tons of potential,” said North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden, who coached Sato during his NA3HL career. “We’re grateful that we could be part of his development as a player and a person, and we’re thrilled to see him get this opportunity in Finland. He has a bright future in professional hockey, and we’re excited to see what his future holds.”
After piling up 15 points in the first seven games of the 2016-17 campaign, Sato moved to the NAHL for good, playing the remainder of the season with the Northeast Generals. He posted 73 points in 71 games over his two-plus seasons in North Iowa, and his 36 points that season with the Generals ranked second on the team and earned him an NCAA Division I scholarship to the University of New Hampshire.
Sato’s speed helped him flourish on the Wildcats’ Olympic-sized ice sheet, notching 29 points in 104 games with the program from 2017 to 2021. He capped his collegiate career this past season, posting 12 additional points as a graduate transfer at Bentley University.
The Nishitokio, Japan native now joins a Joensuun Kiekko-Pojat team getting set to begin its 70th anniversary season as a member of the Mestis, Finland’s second-highest level of professional hockey. He is only the second North Iowa Bulls alumnus to ever play professionally in Finland, following Finnish native Kristian Kause, who played two years in the nation’s Suomi-sarja third-level pro league.
“Sato is a versatile center, who can play in many different roles and always gives his all,” said Jaako Liponen, the team’s general manager. “In addition, Sato has enormous skating power and speed, which will cause problems for our opponents.”
Joensuun begins its 52-game regular season against defending Mestis champion Kettera on Saturday, September 24.
The North Iowa Bulls and Mason City Toros congratulate Kohei Sato on realizing his dream of playing professional hockey, and wish him further success as he continues his career in Finland.