THIS WEEKEND’S GAME:
FRIDAY – North Iowa @ Rochester, 7:05 p.m.
NORTH IOWA BULLS, 20-3-2-0 (ROSTER, STATS)
@ ROCHESTER GRIZZLIES, 16-5-1-0 (ROSTER, STATS)
COVERAGE: HockeyTV (video/$)
BULLS vs. ROCHESTER ALL-TIME: 5-4-1
NEXT WEEK’S PROMOTIONS: The Bulls’ home game on Saturday, December 28 will be the team’s first home game at Southbridge Mall in downtown Mason City, and the new Mason City Arena, featuring a postgame skate. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON: North Iowa saw two players commit to college programs this week, including one who will make one final appearance in the first game downtown. Cam Fagerlee announced his commitment to NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Stout this past week, and the Bulls’ co-captain will join the Blue Devils’ program next season. Fagerlee becomes the 13th North Iowa player to commit to Terry Watkins’s team, and will join former Bulls Peter Verstegen and Brady Meyers when he heads to Menomonie next year. Defenseman Justin Callahan announced his commitment to ACHA Division I Iowa State University on Thursday, and is not expected to appear for the Bulls in either this game or at the NA3HL Showcase. More than 140 North Iowa alumni have advanced to play college hockey in the last nine years, including more than 70 who made their commitments while with the Bulls.
WE MAY LOSE AND WE MAY WIN…: After winning all 22 games in the head-to-head series against the Rochester Ice Hawks, North Iowa’s short series against the Grizzlies has been about as even as it gets. The Bulls have won five of 10, but took the loss in the teams’ only overtime meeting last season. Four of the six regular-season meetings between the teams went to Rochester last year, but the Bulls won the postseason series in three games. North Iowa’s 8-2 win over the Grizzlies in November was the most lopsided ever for either team.
…BUT WE WILL NEVER BE HERE AGAIN: The Bulls closed out a 204-game run at the “Madhouse in Mason City” last Saturday night, wrapping up with a record of 173-23-8 record in the “Barn” since the first home game in 2011. The team had its final skate in the building on Thursday, with the team set to report to the new Mason City Arena after the Christmas break.
AT A PREMIUM: Despite the outcome of the last get-together, this matchup is expected to be a tight one – both teams have held their opponents to fewer than 25 shots per game, putting each among the top four defenses in the NA3HL entering the weekend. Goaltender Mathias Backstrom is a hard nut to crack, allowing less than a goal-and-a-half per game, good for second in the league. His Bulls counterpart, Dysen Skinner, ranks sixth with a 1.87 goals-against mark.