December 17, 2021 – 7:15 p.m.
December 18, 2021 – 7:15 p.m.
VFW Sports Center – Bismarck, ND
NORTH IOWA BULLS (14-8-1-2)
@ BISMARCK BOBCATS (7-17-1-1)
BULLS vs. BISMARCK ALL-TIME: 2-0-0
NORTH IOWA MEDIA NOTES: FRIDAY | SATURDAY
NAHL STAT PACKS: FRIDAY | SATURDAY
IN A NUTSHELL:
The Bulls hunt for two more wins to go into the Christmas break on the right note.
North Iowa returns to home ice on Saturday, January 1 against the Austin Bruins – the Bulls kick off the brand-new year and open up the season’s second half with a postgame party skate.
North Iowa forward Dylan Gajewski continues to burn out the red light bulb, posting seven goals in his first four games as a Bull. It’s one of the most torrid starts to a Bulls career in history – seven different players have posted goals in three of their first four games as Bulls, including Ryan Coughlin earlier this year. However, only Dominic Skrelja posted goals in all of his first four games in a North Iowa uniform during the fall of 2017, and only his eight goals in those first four games surpassed Gajewski’s total. Skrelja did not extend his goal streak to his first five appearances, but did earn an early call-up from the NA3HL to the Austin Bruins on his way to NCAA Division III hockey and Salve Regina University in Rhode Island.
THE POWER’S BACK ON:
The brief step out of divisional play for the Bulls did wonders for their special teams last weekend – Springfield entered the weekend as the NAHL’s number-one power play unit, but North Iowa held their visitors scoreless on all nine of their power play chances, snapping a run of four straight games for the Jr. Blues with a power play goal. The Bulls finished the weekend with three power play goals, including their first multi-goal game on the power play since going 3-for-5 at the NAHL Showcase against the Amarillo Wranglers on September 18.
SINKING THE BISMARCK:
This weekend marks the first trip to the VFW Sports Center for a junior hockey team from Mason City since the Bobcats’ 3-2 overtime win over the North Iowa Outlaws on February 20, 2010 – future Ferris State center Dominic Panetta scored the overtime winner 1:08 into the extra session of that game. The Bulls and Bobcats brought out the big guns in their first two meetings, combining for 19 goals against each other in their early-November games at North Iowa – Carter Rapalje racked up six points in the Bulls’ sweep of Bismarck, including four goals in North Iowa’s 6-4 victory to open the weekend. Not surprisingly, he would earn the Central Division’s Star of the Week award for his efforts that weekend.
TURNING THE CORNER:
Bismarck got off to a rocky start to the season, but with a few roster moves and players returning from injuries, the Bobcats are turning the corner and are right in the Central Division conversation as Christmas approaches. The Bobcats dropped all of their first six games, earning win number one October 1 with a 7-3 lead over the Minot Minotauros. Over their last nine games, though, Bismarck has cranked out a 4-4-1 record, and no Central Division team other than Minot has won more than five games out of its last 10.