April 15, 2022 – 7:30 p.m. (Mason City Arena – Mason City, IA)
April 16, 2022 – 7:10 p.m. (Municipal Athletic Complex – St. Cloud, MN)
ST. CLOUD NORSEMEN (39-16-2-1)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (22-26-4-6)
BULLS vs. ST. CLOUD ALL-TIME: 1-3-2
IN A NUTSHELL:
North Iowa and St. Cloud close out the regular season this weekend, with the Bulls looking to end on a positive note.
The home season winds down with a final postgame skate and jersey auction – a mix of the team’s home whites and navy blue away jerseys will be auctioned, and fans can skate with the Bulls immediately following the conclusion of the game.
RIVER CITY RARITY:
Tonight’s game will mark the last of 28 home games for North Iowa this season, in the market’s return to NAHL hockey for the first time since 2010 – though it’s the first year in the Bulls’ 11 seasons without playoff hockey, this game still marks the latest home game for a North Iowa team since the Outlaws’ appearance in the 2009 Robertson Cup tournament, which was hosted at the North Iowa Ice Arena – last year’s home finale to finish the Fraser Cup West Division Finals was held on April 11, a 4-2 win over the Willmar WarHawks.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT:
Not many teams in the NAHL have lived on the edge quite like the Bulls this season – the two losses last week to Bismarck marked nine straight one- or two-goal games for North Iowa this year, bringing their total in that department to 39 this season. Only Aberdeen (44) and Lone Star (40) have played more games to a one-goal or two-goal conclusion.
This game marks the last home appearance for eight North Iowa players born in the year 2001 – players born in this year age out of junior hockey following the season. Two players from this class – Sean Vlasich and Greg Japchen – have already announced NCAA Division I commitments, while two others have made decisions and have college announcements pending, and commitments from the other four are likely to follow. Barring a superhuman weekend from Byron Hartley, who sits in second place on the team with 20 goals, Carter Rapalje (28 goals) will finish his final season of junior hockey as the Bulls’ top goal-scorer of the season, and he comes in with a chance to be the team’s first 30-goal scorer since current Lincoln Star Lucas Wahlin in 2019-20.
SCOUTING ST. CLOUD:
With a 16-point lead on the field and two games remaining, the Norsemen have long since clinched the top spot in the Central Division race, earning home-ice advantage through the Robertson Cup playoffs. They haven’t slowed their momentum recently, either, winning 25 of their last 31 games and only once dropping back-to-back decisions during that span. Ryan O’Neill’s scoring luck did finally run out April 2 at Austin, ending his point-scoring streak at 11 games, the organization’s longest such streak in nine years (Thomas Williams, 2012-13). Tomas Bolo comes into the weekend with 28 wins, just two off of tying a franchise record of his own (Jacob Meyers, 2011-12).