September 17, 2021 – 5:15 p.m.
National Sports Center Super Rink – Blaine, MN
AMARILLO BULLS (2-0-0-0)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (1-1-0-0)
ATTENDING THE GAME: MAP TO ARENA
LIVE STATS: CLICK HERE
BULLS vs. AMARILLO ALL-TIME: 0-0-0
LAST TIME OUT: North Iowa was coming off of a season-opening 5-1 win over the Minnesota Wilderness on Wednesday, but a Jamestown Rebels team that took a 7-0 loss to Springfield the previous night was able to engineer a quick turnaround for a 4-1 victory over the Bulls. The Rebels grabbed the lead at the game’s 6:10 mark, when Noah Szretter snapped one from the right wing to beat Jackson Baker for the 1-0 lead. Owen West hit his mark off of a drop pass from Reid Lune with just over six minutes left in the period, and the Rebels carried a 2-0 lead and a 13-6 shots-on-goal advantage into the break. After tallying a shorthanded goal in the second period off of a backhand try from Lune, Kevin Marx-Noren popped one into the top corner above Baker’s left shoulder at 4:04 of the third for a 4-0 lead. The Bulls earned a 16-8 advantage on shots in the third period and chipped away with a stuffed-in goal from Ryan Coughlin 71 seconds later, but North Iowa could muster no more offense in their first loss of the young season. The penalty-killing units combined for a perfect 9-for-9 finish, and Baker made 27 saves to take the loss in his junior debut. West had a goal and two assists to highlight the Rebels offense.
NEXT HOME GAME: North Iowa opens its 2021-22 home schedule on Friday, September 24 against Aberdeen. That game kicks off the Bulls’ “1 Town, 2 Teams, 3 Days, 4 Games” weekend alongside the new Mason City Toros, with free schedule posters to be given away at Friday’s game.
A PRETTY SPECIAL START: The Bulls may have only one win in their first two chances, but their special teams are off to a great start, especially the penalty kill – Minnesota’s third-period goal from Charlie Erickson is the only blemish against North Iowa in an 8-for-9 start. Their opponents have been equally tough so far, holding the Bulls to just 1-for-10 on the man-advantage early on.
STICK-TAPS SKRASTINS: Amarillo forward Kristaps Skrastins is off to a monster start to the season, piling up seven goals over his first two NAHL games, including both game-winners (Thursday’s game-winning goal came in overtime). Skrastins is one of two Riga-born players on Harry Mahood’s roster to come to the Wranglers from HK Riga of the MHL, the minor-pro feeder league to the Kontinental Hockey League. Tallying five points over the first two games is HK Riga teammate Glebs Prohorenkovs, who also played seven games in the KHL last season. Both were members of Latvia’s junior national team that played this past winter at the World Junior Championships.
A WILD FINISH: After a tidy 5-2 win over the New Jersey Titans to open the NAHL Showcase on Wednesday, the Wranglers had to put in some overtime on Thursday to earn win number two – after falling behind 2-0, Amarillo turned their game against the Minnesota Wilderness into a seesaw battle, running off four straight goals to take a 4-2 lead going to the third. William Persson and Matthew McQuade evened things up with their third-period goals, both on the power play, and forced Skrastins to win the game for the Wranglers in overtime. The power play units for both teams were exceptional, with Minnesota going 2-for-8 in the game and Amarillo finishing 3-for-7 on the power play.
WHAT A JOURNEY: The route to Amarillo has been a roundabout one for the Wranglers over the last two seasons – the Topeka Pilots announced a move to Kansas City and a rebrand to the Scouts at the end of February 2020, but two weeks later, the NAHL season ended due to the international COVID shutdown. The Scouts did not play in 2020-21, and announced a second season to their hiatus in 2021-22. The Amarillo Bulls, meanwhile, announced their move to Mason City early this past March, adopting the North Iowa Bulls identity and sending their NA3HL entry into the new season as the Mason City Toros. As the Robertson Cup playoffs unfolded, the league and ownership in Amarillo announced the purchase of the Kansas City Scouts – who never played a game – to move to Amarillo. The Wranglers share a name with the first pro hockey team to play in the Panhandle in the late 1960s and early ‘70s.