Bulls, Wings Take Flight In Preseason Action This Weekend

 

ABERDEEN
WINGS

(0-0-0-0)
0 pts

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September 9, 2022 – 7:15 p.m.
September 10, 2022 – 3:00 p.m.

Odde Ice Center
Aberdeen, S.D.

NORTH IOWA
BULLS

(0-0-0-0)
0 pts

ROSTER  |  STATS

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IN A NUTSHELL: North Iowa takes its show on the road for the first time this preseason, squaring off twice against its most common counterpart from 2021-22.

THE SCENE-SETTER: The Bulls opened a brand-new preseason Wednesday with a pair of mini-games against the Corpus Christi IceRays, each totaling 40 minutes in length. North Iowa brought the Mason City Arena crowd to its feet early, with Byron Hartley banging in a rebound chance just 28 seconds out of the gate in the opening mini-game. After falling behind 2-1, Max Scott found Justin Mexico in the left-wing faceoff circle for a one-timer and the tying goal with 15:09 to go. Cameron Crolley got the lead back for Corpus Christi for good with 12:46 left, and Oliver Stumpel’s goal sealed the opening victory. The nightcap was a stalemate until the final 5:20, when Casey Roepke’s shot from the right point deflected off of Hunter Bulger in front of the net for a power play goal and a 1-0 victory. The Bulls out-shot their visitors in both mini-games, and went 2-for-3 on the power play and 7-for-7 on the penalty kill.

KNOW YOUR FOE: Aberdeen enjoyed its traditional outstanding season, taking third place in a spirited battle for Central Division supremacy, just a point behind Austin for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The Wings dispatched the Bruins in three straight games before moving on to a four-game defeat at the hands of Central Division champ St. Cloud in the division finals. They begin the season with four NCAA Division I commitments already in hand, a year after racking up 13 NCAA commitments. Head coach Steve Jennings was a busy man during the offseason, replacing 11 players who aged out of junior hockey, including six on the blue line and seven of the team’s top nine scorers. He has an ace in the front office to help with that process, however, with the return of longtime bench boss Scott Langer as the team’s general manager and director of hockey operations.

WE’RE TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE: The Bulls and Wings meet up for a preseason weekend together for the second year in a row, after Aberdeen’s trip south to Mason City last year. The teams split their preseason weekend last year, with North Iowa taking the opening game of the set by a 7-1 score and falling in the Saturday afternoon session, 5-4. North Iowa ended its Friday tilt with five straight goals, two of them from Ryan Coughlin, but a spirited comeback from a 4-1 deficit on Saturday came up just a tad short thanks to a goal from Landry Schmuck just 52 seconds into overtime. Hunter Bulger headlined North Iowa’s Saturday effort with two goals while future Bull Kyle Kozma earned the overtime victory with 20 saves.

CARDIAC KIDS: That overtime meeting would become an all-too-familiar theme between the teams, with North Iowa and Aberdeen going beyond the regulation 60 minutes in six of their 12 get-togethers. In all, the Bulls played in 40 games last season decided by one- or two-goal margins, second only to Aberdeen’s 46 games decided by two or fewer goals. The Wings would win five of the six meetings at the Odde Ice Center, by a maximum of just three goals.

YOU LOOK FAMILIAR: Aberdeen was North Iowa’s most common opponent last year, with the two preseason meetings as a tiebreaker of sorts. The Bulls would play the Wings, Austin Bruins and Bismarck Bobcats 12 times apiece in the regular season, followed by St. Cloud and Minot eight times and the Springfield Jr. Blues just four times. That arrangement will continue this season, with North Iowa’s four NAHL Showcase games rounding out the 60-game slate.

FIRE AWAY: The Bulls will have some much-needed firepower back in the matchup this season despite seeing several key players move on to NCAA Division I programs or the United States Hockey League. Eight different North Iowa players notched seven points or more against the Wings, and five of them return for this weekend’s matchups – Logan Dombrowsky leads the way among returners with 11 points against Aberdeen last season, including three on the final weekend after a six-week stint on the injury list. Byron Hartley led the way with six goals head-to-head and also returns.

THE MEN IN THE IRON MASK: Fans from both sides will get a brand-new look in net this season for their respective teams, with the Bulls and Wings completely revamping their goaltending corps. After an offseason trade that sent North Iowa goaltender Hunter Garvey to El Paso, NCDC Goaltender of the Year Mitchell Day and Mason City Toros netminder Erik Chaffe are the preseason frontrunners to remain on the roster heading into the regular season. Aberdeen is likely to see newcomers Geno Pichora and Bowling Green State commit Cole Moore make the trip to Blaine out of training camp, though both teams still have final cuts to make prior to the start of the regular season next week.