December 31, 2021 – 7:05 p.m. (Riverside Arena – Austin, MN)
January 1, 2022 – 7:30 p.m. (Mason City Arena – Mason City, IA)
AUSTIN BRUINS (16-10-1-2)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (14-10-1-2)
BULLS vs. AUSTIN ALL-TIME: 3-2-1
NORTH IOWA MEDIA NOTES: FRIDAY | SATURDAY
NAHL STAT PACKS: FRIDAY | SATURDAY
IN A NUTSHELL:
The Bulls look to right the ship coming out of the Christmas break and shake a stretch of seven losses in eight games.
LAST TIME OUT:
North Iowa will do its best to put its pre-Christmas finale in the rearview mirror after taking a sweep at the hands of the Bismarck Bobcats, finishing with a 5-1 loss on Saturday, December 18. A big night on the power play made for a happy holiday for North Iowa’s hosts, with the Bobcats finishing 3-for-7 on the man-advantage, their second three-goal night on the power play in as many weeks. Bismarck snatched the lead with 6:30 remaining in the period, picking up a power play goal from defenseman Michael Neumeier. He fired the puck into the upper half of the net at 8:09 of the second period for a 2-0 lead, and Owen Michaels found Ben Troumbly on the back door for a point-blank tap-in and a 3-0 lead with 8:19 on the clock. After killing off a 5-on-3 both Friday and Saturday, the Bobcats scored on both a 5-on-3 and the ensuing 5-on-4 with goals from Jake McLean and Eddie Shepler early in the third for the 5-0 advantage. With 13:08 remaining, Michael Mesic was able to score on the rebound to dent the Bobcats’ lead and break up the shutout. Oskar Spinnars Nordin earned both wins on the weekend, notching 32 saves in the Saturday contest, while Hunter Garvey took the loss on 31 saves.
THIS WEEKEND’S PROMOTIONS:
North Iowa returns to home ice on Saturday, January 1 against the Austin Bruins – the Bulls kick off the brand-new year with a Tie Dye Tilt, featuring tie-dyed hoodies for sale and ticket discounts for fans wearing tie-dye to the game. Domestic beers and Bud Light Retro Seltzers are also marked down to just $3, and fans can open up the season’s second half with a postgame party skate from 10 to 11 p.m.
LIKE LOOKING IN A MIRROR:
Halfway through their first season as Central Division rivals, the series between Austin and North Iowa is as close as one would have expected – both teams enter the weekend with 3-2-0-1 records against each other, with each team having earned a weekend sweep and a shootout victory on the other side’s home ice. Furthermore, each team comes into the weekend with an identical 7-4-1-1 record in away contests, though North Iowa earned all four points available in their “away” games at the NAHL Showcase in September. The Bruins’ only stumble in that event came as the “away” team, in overtime against the Minnesota Magicians.
I SWEAR I’VE SEEN YOU BEFORE…:
This weekend’s series marks the first matchup for a couple of current Bulls against their old mates, and tonight’s game will be their first time in the visiting locker room at Riverside Arena after spending the first part of the season in the home digs. Dylan Gajewski makes his return to Riverside coming off of a torrid start as a Bull, becoming one of only two North Iowa players ever to score a goal in all of their first four North Iowa appearances. He notched the game-winner in his NAHL debut on September 15 against Wichita Falls, but never scored for the Bruins after the NAHL Showcase. The winner for the Bruins in that game was Hudson Hodges, who also is set to make his North Iowa debut in net – he has scored two wins against the Bulls, and nine total on the year. He made nine saves against Minot on December 18, earning the win in what turned out to be his finale for Austin.
IN THE ARMY NOW:
North Iowa has its latest NCAA Division I commitment, with defenseman and captain Sean Vlasich set to take his game to West Point next season. Vlasich announced his commitment on Thursday, becoming the Bulls’ second player to make it to the United States Military Academy. However, he’ll be the first former Bull to make it onto the Division I roster – defenseman Jaxon Jones is in his third season on West Point’s ACHA Division II club roster after earning an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 2018.
WHO’S IN YOUR FIVE?:
The battle for the top spot on the Bulls’ scoring list is as spirited as ever – North Iowa has five players on the roster with 20 points or more, one of only seven NAHL teams making that claim coming out of the holiday break. Michael Mesic’s goal at Bismarck put him back in a tie for the team scoring lead, while Carter Rapalje’s 16 goals remains a top-five mark in the NAHL.