September 24, 2021 – 7:30 p.m. (Mason City Arena – Mason City, IA)
September 25, 2021 – 7:00 p.m. (Riverside Arena – Austin, MN)
AUSTIN BRUINS (4-1-1-0)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (4-2-0-0)
BULLS vs. AUSTIN ALL-TIME: 0-0-0
IN A NUTSHELL:
LAST TIME OUT:
North Iowa found itself on a roller-coaster ride on Saturday night, squaring off with an Aberdeen Wings team that had come back from down 2-0 to win 3-2 the previous night – in Saturday’s game, the Bulls lost a three-goal lead and briefly fell behind before charging back to beat the Wings 6-5, jumping back to within a point of first place in the NAHL Central Division. The Bulls cruised early against Wings goalie Dominik Wasik, with Logan Dombrowsky stepping through a faceoff win and sneaking in a sharp-angle chance 7:41 into the game. Within six minutes, Jack Mesic and Greg Japchen had both scored from throws out near the blue line, and the lead was at 3-0. Aberdeen made its move with two goals from Jackson Yee in the final four minutes of the opening period, and goals from Maksis Brimanis and Landry Schmuck just six seconds apart midway through the second period. The Bulls grabbed the lead back before the intermission, with Anthony Domina’s second-chance goal tying the game and Simone Dadie’s goal on an odd-man rush. Hunter Bulger sprang free for an insurance goal at 4:15 of the third, but the Wings got one back with 46 seconds left thanks to Jacob Bosse and an empty net at the other end. Dadie finished with a goal and two assists, Carsen Stokes made 25 saves for his second NAHL win, and the penalty-killing units combined to go 5-for-5 in the game.
North Iowa welcomes Austin as the Bulls flip on the “Friday Night Lights” – several Bulls players will be available for postgame autographs following tonight’s game against the Bruins.
SPRINGSTEEN, MADONNA, WAY BEFORE NIRVANA:
This matchup marks the first time since the late winter of 1985 that junior hockey teams from Mason City and Austin have squared off – the North Iowa Huskies and Austin Mavericks were briefly in the United States Hockey League together, with the Huskies opening play in 1983 and the Mavericks moving to Rochester to become the Grizzlies during the ’85 offseason. The two cities nearly had an NAHL encounter in 2010, but their respective teams turned out to be just ships passing in the night – the Austin Bruins opened up shop that summer, but the North Iowa Outlaws were already on their way to La Crosse, Wisconsin as the Coulee Region Chill.
MESICS MATCH MICHIGAN MIGRATIONS:
Before the end of September, the North Iowa Bulls already have their first two NCAA Division I commitments as an NAHL club, and the last names on both are identical – 2004-born forward Michael Mesic announced his commitment to Northern Michigan University on Monday, while 2002-born blueliner Jack Mesic made his commitment to Ferris State on Wednesday. The younger Mesic is off to a hot start in his first season as a Bull, with seven points over his first six games, while the elder Mesic has two goals over his first six appearances, playing his third year in the Bulls organization. North Iowa is no stranger to collegiate kudos, with 110 players making it to NCAA rosters after making a stop in Mason City during the team’s decade in the NA3HL.
THE SETUP MAN:
Max Scott continues to rank among the top scorers for the Bulls as the regular season enters its third week, but there’s one thing left on his list that he continues to hunt for: his first North Iowa goal. Scott has assists in five of his six appearances this season, including two against Aberdeen last Saturday night, and his eight points ranks second on the Bulls roster. He finished last season with four goals, but currently sits just a point off his 2020-21 pace.
The Austin Bruins have enjoyed a red-hot start to the season on special teams, and continued their torrid run on the power play last week against the Minot Minotauros – Austin went 2-for-6 against the Minotauros on Saturday, scoring twice on Owen Joseph’s unsportsmanlike conduct major in a 3-2 loss. The Bruins went 2-for-3 on the power play the previous night, including Marian Haborak’s game-winner with 4:30 left. Austin has scored at least two power play goals in every contest so far, and the Bruins’ 44.8-percent mark ranks second in the NAHL behind only the Amarillo Wranglers at 50 percent.
In his fourth appearance as a Bull, Simone Dadie finally made his debut appearance on the Bulls’ score sheet last Saturday night, highlighting a three-goal scoring torrent that flipped a 4-3 Wings lead into a two-goal North Iowa advantage. Dadie scored all three of his points in that stretch, and his goal with 4:26 left in the second was pegged as the eventual game-winner until Aberdeen pulled within one with the extra attacker in the final minute. The Italian-born forward was North Iowa’s second pick in this past summer’s NAHL Draft, going 44th overall out of the same Okanagan Hockey Academy squad in Austria that produced third-year Mason City Toros forward Sota Isogai.