THIS WEEKEND’S GAME:
FRIDAY – Rochester @ North Iowa, 7:30 p.m
BULLS vs. ROCHESTER ALL-TIME: 4-4-1
THIS WEEK’S PROMOTIONS: This weekend is the Bulls’ “Throwback Weekend,” with commemorative t-shirts and rolled-back ticket prices to honor the former Huskies and Outlaws teams in the North Iowa market. The Huskies and Outlaws host families will also be honored this weekend. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
ONCE UNITED, NOW DIVIDED: After four years in the same division (including three in the Central Division with the Rochester Ice Hawks), the Grizzlies and Bulls are spending their first season apart. Rochester returned to the Central Division with the loss of the Wisconsin Whalers to Sheridan, Wyoming and the folding of the Evansville Jr. Thunderbolts. The teams met in the West Division semifinals last season, with the home team winning each of the three games. North Iowa used three straight goals to rout Rochester 4-1 in the decisive third game. The Grizzlies won four of six during the regular-season series.
STACKING THE PADS: Regardless of which goaltender each coach chooses to take the ice on Friday night, putting the puck in the net will be far easier said than done. The two teams feature three of the top six netminders in the league, starting with Rochester’s Shane Soderwall – his 1.40 goals-against average ranks second in the NA3HL, while teammate Mathias Backstrom’s 1.48 mark ranks fourth. Not far behind is Bulls goalie Dysen Skinner, who has a 1.81 goals-against average, good for sixth on the circuit. Evan Babekuhl is just one game short of eligibility for the list – his 1.50 goals-against average would rank fifth.
IT’S OUR SPECIALTY: As both teams battle for the top spots in their respective divisions, each team ranks near the top of the league in almost all relevant categories. The difference may be in the special teams – North Iowa brings a top-10 power play into the contest, with a top-six penalty-killing unit. However, Rochester’s mark on the man-advantage is right at the league median, and the Grizzlies’ penalty-killing unit is in the bottom half of the list.
O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: North Iowa isn’t just helping to build good hockey players, the Bulls pride themselves on molding good leaders. Four former Bulls are on the captains’ lists at their respective NCAA Division III colleges this season, including two at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. Johnny Panvica and Brett Gravelle have both attained leadership status on the Tommies’ roster, while Adam Orn was named a captain at St. John’s University in Minnesota, and Joe Burgmeier is a captain this year at Concordia-Moorhead. 52 former Bulls are currently playing college hockey, including 30 current Division III players.