MASON CITY, Iowa – The city of Albert Lea has always had strong connections to the North Iowa Bulls, despite being more than a half-hour up the road in another state. For their first nine seasons, the Bulls traveled up to the City Arena to practice before the ice went in at the North Iowa Events Center. Defenseman Campbell Cichosz played two seasons for North Iowa, and helped lead the team to a Fraser Cup title last year, before departing for the NAHL. Even Waldorf University’s hockey team would occasionally welcome the Bulls to town for an exhibition tilt before the teams’ seasons officially got going.
Albert Lea will get at least one more line in the North Iowa history books, with the signing of forward Blake Ulve to a North American Hockey League tender. Ulve is coming off of a brief, but very successful, first season of junior hockey with the Mason City Toros of the North American Tier 3 Hockey League.
“I’m excited to be back in Mason City next season,” Ulve said. “I really enjoyed being part of this team this year after a late start getting into games.”
Injuries kept him off the ice in his debut season until February 1, but once Ulve finally hit the ice, he helped lead the Toros into the Fraser Cup playoffs on a late-season surge. He made his first appearance in the scoring column with a pair of assists on February 12 against the Minnesota Loons, and closed the regular season on a seven-game point streak before going off for two goals and two assists in his first playoff game against the Willmar WarHawks.
Ulve was a standout throughout his high school years before making the move to juniors, notching 112 points in a three-year career at Albert Lea High School and also spending a season with the Austin Bruins’ 18-and-under squad in the North American Prospects Hockey League.
“He was one of the guys I was most excited about before the start of the season,” Bruneteau said. “Blake did a great job of being part of the team while injured and worked hard to make it back for the playoff push. I’m eager to see how he continues to improve next season.”
He becomes the second Toros player this season to sign an NAHL tender with the Bulls, after Carter Newpower inked a tender with the Bulls back in December. Newpower finished the season with 91 points, taking second in the NA3HL scoring race and becoming the first Tier 3 player in Mason City to pass the 90-point plateau since Brett Gravelle’s 99-point campaign in 2015-16.
The Mason City Toros and North Iowa Bulls congratulate Blake Ulve on his tender signing and wish him further success as the 2022 offseason begins.