WINONA, Minn. – Second-year North Iowa Bull Cal Nauss is listed on the lineup each night as a defenseman, but few have had as much to do this year with lighting that big red lamp as he has.
The Bulls’ leading scorer so far in 2020-21 has a destination in mind for 2021-22, and there’s more red involved. The Wayzata, Minnesota native has announced his commitment to St. Mary’s University, a proud member of NCAA Division III and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
Nauss becomes the first North Iowa Bulls player to announce a college commitment this season, and the sixth all-time to make a commitment to the Cardinals’ program. More than 150 former Bulls have gone on to play college hockey for NCAA or ACHA programs, with nine making it to NCAA Division I rosters.
“I love the school and the program. The coaches are awesome,” said Nauss. It’s a big opportunity for me, and it’s a great fit. [Their coaches] can see my game fitting in with their game and potentially playing a big role in their program, that was good to hear.”
His first season with the Bulls in 2019-20 marked a return to the Midwest, after a lengthy run with 16U and 18U programs in Phoenix and Los Angeles, and a season in New Jersey as well. He posted 28 points for North Iowa a year ago, including three goals, ranking third among the team’s defensemen in scoring.
With five goals and 22 assists this season, Nauss has raced to the top of the North Iowa leaderboard, just one point off of his 2019-20 pace with more than a month to go in the regular season, and he has more than an outside shot to become the first Bulls defenseman ever to lead the team in scoring.
“What Cal really brings is a responsible defenseman who’s quick, who makes a good first pass, and he defends pretty well with his reach and his speed,” said North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden. “He’ll be diligent and he’ll get stronger over the summer, which he knows he needs to do.”
His new head coach at St. Mary’s is someone who knows the North American Tier 3 Hockey League as well as anybody. Cardinals bench boss Ryan Egan has spent time as the head coach of the La Crosse Freeze and College Station Spirit (now Texas Roadrunners) in the NA3HL, and also served as the head coach of the former Coulee Region Chill in the North American Hockey League.
“The big thing is, we want to find athletes that have room to improve and want to continue to improve,” said Egan. “[Players from the NA3HL] show up to the NCAA Division III level and they don’t take things for granted. We like the fact that he’s an offensive defenseman who has the ability to score at the NA3HL level, and we like the toughness in his game and his length.”
The 6’4″ Nauss has already earned some hardware this season, earning the league’s Defenseman of the Month award for his play in October, picking up 10 points in his first nine outings of the year. His honor was the first time a North Iowa player has earned a monthly honor since defenseman Shane Bernhardson and goaltender Colin Cain both earned monthly awards from the NA3HL for their play in December of 2017.
Several North Iowa alumni have called St. Mary’s home in recent years, including Jimmy McDermott, who became a two-sport Cardinal in hockey and baseball before transferring to NCAA Division II Assumption University this season. Jack Stang finished his career at St. Mary’s last season before embarking on a pro hockey career in Sweden, and younger brother Tommy is a Cardinal senior this year.
“St. Mary’s is getting a great young man who can step in and be part of their lineup,” said Sanden. “I think he fits in at middle depth, but with his reach and his skating and rink awareness, I think he’s going to have an opportunity to be successful right out of the gates there.”
The Cardinals are off to a hot start to their abbreviated 2020-21 season, going 4-0 ahead of games against Augsburg University and St. Thomas University.
The North Iowa Bulls congratulate Cal Nauss on his commitment to St. Mary’s University, and wish him all the best as he prepares to begin the next stage of his hockey career.