ALBERT LEA, Minn. – One week ago, there were no North Iowa Bulls players moved into northern Iowa. Now, with just a week to go before the first game of the 2019-20 season, Todd Sanden’s team is in town and making remarkable strides toward opening night.
The bar has been set high for this season, after a 37-win campaign and a spot in last year’s Fraser Cup semifinals. Six players are back for the team’s ninth season on the ice, a season that is beginning with daily practices at the Albert Lea City Arena. As rosters in higher-level leagues are finalized over the coming few weeks, it’s likely that additional Bulls veterans will trickle back onto the roster for this year.
“I think the first three days of our skates were really good,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “The kids came into town with very sharp detail, and we’re excited about that. It’s a bit of a smaller group than we’re used to, but these guys have been really good in the first three days on the ice.”
Two of the team’s top scorers from a year ago have come back for this season. One was the top scorer from a year ago, after Matt Dahlseide posted team highs with 60 regular-season points and eight points in the postseason. Cam Fagerlee was one point shy of 50 during the regular season, and added five more in eight postseason appearances.
Several other key players are back for this season, including forwards Nick Bowlin and Jordan Roo. Bowlin scored 25 points during the 2018-19 season, while Roo posted 19 in his debut season of junior hockey. Illinois native Justin Callahan made 30 appearances during his first season with the Bulls, and is the team’s only returning defenseman.
Two new goaltenders are in preseason camp with the Bulls, joining seven-game winner Evan Babekuhl. Joe Daninger led Blaine High School to a third-place finish at last year’s Minnesota state tournament, and posted some of his best numbers in the postseason for the Bengals. Eli Bowers spent three seasons in the North American Prospects Hockey League with the Madison Capitols.
“This is the time of the year that we have an opportunity to bring other goalies in, and I’ve already declined on a few other goaltenders that were available,” said Sanden. “I want to give our guys an opportunity to fight it out – we don’t have a clear number-one coming into this thing. It’s definitely a goalie battle, and we like where we’re at with these three.”
Several other players bring intriguing histories into the new season. North Iowa hockey fans will find a familiar name in Evan Sivets – older brother Patrick Sivets was part of the Bulls’ debut roster in the fall of 2011, and led the 2012-13 team to the first of its three national championships.
Joining Sivets in the attacking zone will be Mason Enright, who has hockey quite literally in his blood. Older brother Gavin Enright is starting this season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, after a standout season in the NAHL with the Kenai River Brown Bears. Younger sister Claire announced her commitment to the University of Minnesota’s women’s hockey team last summer.
Also helping in the North Iowa attack will be offensive-minded defenseman Nico Aguilera, who was a spark plug in Lakeville South’s fourth-place finish at the Minnesota state high school tournament a year ago. Aguilera went into state with 25 points to his name, and added five more during his three games on the big stage.
As is the custom, the Bulls will spend a few weeks on the road before making their home debut at the North Iowa Ice Arena on October 4. Road trips to Breezy Point, Peoria and Granite City open the slate, while the arena gets its final sheet of ice in the second half of September. The Bulls are expected to play the first half of the season at the 36-year-old ice arena at the North Iowa Events Center before debuting at a new multipurpose arena currently under construction in downtown Mason City.
“Obviously, this next week is a regular-season preparation week, before a pair of road games,” said Sanden. “They just need to continue with being sharp, being on time, and giving us every bit of effort in their focus and preparation. They’re going to have to be a bit sharper and more mentally focused.”
Season and single-game tickets are still available by calling the front office at 641-423-4625, or by clicking here. The latest news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available by visiting northiowabulls.com, and through the Bulls’ social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.