September 8, 2021 – 7:00 p.m.
Mason City Arena – Mason City, IA
SHATTUCK-ST. MARY’S SABRES (0-0-0)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (0-0-0-0)
LIVE STATS: None
BULLS vs. SHATTUCK-ST. MARY’S ALL-TIME: 4-9-0
NEXT HOME GAME: The Bulls return to home ice on Friday and Saturday to square off with the Aberdeen Wings and close out the preseason. Friday’s game starts at 7:30 p.m., followed by Saturday’s contest at 3:00 at the Mason City Arena. Adult tickets for both games are just $5, with free admission for kids 12 and under.
SCOUTING THE SABRES: Tom Ward will be leading almost an entirely-new group this season, with just four players who return from last year’s group. Shattuck-St. Mary’s reached the semifinals at the USA Hockey U18 Tier I national tournament, dropping a 4-3 overtime decision to the North Jersey Avalanche. Mason City Toros draft pick Tyler Krivtsov went the distance, making 24 saves in the defeat. The highest-scoring player back from last year is Will Whitelaw, who tallied 31 points in 36 games. Two other returners – Grant Fuchsen and Christian Heckman – played in just a few games.
SHUT THE DOOR, THERE’S A DRAFT: NHL Draft day was a red-letter day for Shattuck-St. Mary’s, with eight current players or alumni hearing their names called by National Hockey League teams. Michigan freshman Mackie Samoskevich was just the first to hear his name called, going 24th overall to the Florida Panthers. In all, Shattuck-St. Mary’s has produced 93 NHL draft picks, with 12 players on preseason NHL rosters. 33 other Shattuck-St. Mary’s alumni are set to suit up for their respective NCAA Division I squads for the 2021-22 season.
A NEW DAY HAS COME: Unofficial as it may be, tonight’s game is a momentous one for North Iowa hockey fans, as an NAHL team hits the ice in Mason City for the first time since the spring of 2010. It was then that the North Iowa Outlaws departed for the La Crosse, Wisconsin metro, spending the following nine seasons as the Coulee Region Chill. This season’s team has four players on its preseason roster with NCAA Division I commitments already in hand, and more are sure to follow. The 2021-22 North Iowa Bulls will look almost completely different from the 2020-21 program, taking over the Amarillo Bulls’ place in the NAHL, along with its roster.
AMARILLO SKY: Last year’s Amarillo Bulls team enjoyed a solid finish in its final season in the Panhandle, tying with the Wichita Falls Warriors with 67 points in 56 games and landing the South Division’s final playoff spot. After a 4-1 blowout of the Shreveport Mudbugs in Game 1 of the South Division semifinals, though, the Mudbugs won three straight one-goal games to knock Amarillo out of the postseason. The biggest question mark going into 2021-22 is whether last year’s role players are ready to step in as this year’s standouts – seven of the top nine scorers are gone, including all of the team’s top four. Greg Japchen (55 games, 26 points) is the top scorer to make the move with the team to Mason City – however, three goalies bring back 20 of the team’s 29 wins, plus North Iowa will enjoy the services of NA3HL Fraser Cup MVP Carsen Stokes, who allowed four goals in 241 minutes to lead the “Baby Bulls” to their fourth national championship.
THAT’S SO LAST YEAR: Last year’s North Iowa group became the third (2014, 2016) to defeat Shattuck-St. Mary’s during the season and then follow up by winning an NA3HL championship (North Iowa also defeated the Sabres in 2019-20, but the . North Iowa held a two-goal lead on two different occasions in a home meeting with the Sabres last January, and defeated Shattuck-St. Mary’s 4-3, including two goals from current Springfield Jr. Blue Carson Jones. The visit to Faribault wasn’t quite as successful, but North Iowa still gave their hosts all they could handle in a 3-2 loss.