BISMARCK, N.D. – For a national champion, aging out of junior hockey is always a bittersweet moment. Players who reach the age limit finish their junior careers with a win, but aren’t able to return the following year in hopes of defending that title.
North Iowa forward Garrett Freeman will still have a crown to defend in 2021-22, however, announcing his commitment to the University of Mary. The Marauders won 38 games this past season, winning their first ACHA Division 2 national championship in just their third season on the ice. Former Bulls Marshall Tschida and Justin Ohnstad helped to lead the Marauders to the national title, with Tschida posting an assist on the eventual game-winner in a 2-0 victory over Iowa State in the finals.
“I am very excited that Garrett is going to be a college hockey player at an established ACHA program such as the University of Mary,” said North Iowa Bulls head coach and general manager Todd Sanden. “Garrett made huge strides in his game this year for our team, all the while being a top offensive producer for us. His commitment to being a much more disciplined player transformed his game into more time on the ice. We wish Garrett continued success both on and off the ice at the University of Mary.”
For Freeman, the move to Mary is a return to the state where his college career began in 2018, playing a semester at the ACHA Division 2 level for Williston State and former North Iowa Huskie John Bowkus. The Sartell, Minnesota native got off to a quick start, picking up 10 points in 20 appearances for the Tetons, but opted to give junior hockey a try in the season’s second half.
That move took Freeman to Breezy Point, Minnesota, where he landed with the former North Stars organization. After feeling out six points in 16 games late in the 2018-19 campaign, he reset the franchise goal-scoring record with 30 markers in the 2019-20 campaign, and added 14 assists and 155 penalty minutes as well.
When the Breezy Point organization went on hiatus for the 2020-21 campaign, Freeman found an excellent match in the Bulls, competing for the team’s scoring lead for much of North Iowa’s season. He finished the year with 16 goals and 15 assists, one of seven Bulls players to top the 30-point mark for the season.
After going quietly through the Bulls’ first two games of the year, he exploded in the third game, an October 10 matchup at the Granite City Lumberjacks, just 10 minutes from his home in Sartell. His goal with two minutes left in the first period opened the scoring, and he assisted on Brady Snedden’s game-winner with 1:26 left in the game on a scramble in front of the net.
His encore in the 2021 Fraser Cup postseason was worthy of a standing ovation, posting six points in six games during the West Division playoffs and adding a power play goal in the Bulls’ 5-1 win over the Rochester Grizzlies in the Fraser Cup championship game.
Freeman’s college commitment is the team’s eighth of the season, with nearly 160 North Iowa players landing in NCAA and ACHA college programs over the team’s first 10 years on the ice. Bowkus and the Marauders have kept a close eye on the NA3HL’s West Division this season, landing commitments from New Ulm Steel defenseman Teddy Lillico and Willmar WarHawks forward Isaiah Thomas as well.
The North Iowa Bulls congratulate Garrett Freeman on his commitment to the University of Mary, and wish him the best as he continues his academic and athletic career.