MASON CITY, Iowa – A return to the top of the North American Tier 3 Hockey League’s West Division standings meant quite a haul for the North Iowa Bulls with the announcement of the league’s annual awards slate on Wednesday and Thursday. The Bulls landed three spots on the all-NA3HL lists, and also picked up the league’s Organization of the Year award for the 2019-20 season.
“On behalf of the entire Bulls organization, we are honored and humbled to be recognized as the league’s top organization,” said Bulls Majority Owner Alberto Fernandez. “This recognition is the result of our dedicated front office staff, coaches, players and every single fan and community supporter who has contributed to making the North Iowa Bulls an elite organization. This is more than just an award for our team. It is an award we share with the entire North Iowa community.”
Woodbury, Minnesota native Lucas Wahlin was named the league’s Rookie of the Year after a tremendous first season out of Hill-Murray High School in the Twin Cities. Wahlin racked up 59 points, including 32 goals, in just 38 games with the Bulls this season. He immediately landed on the radar of coaches across the North American Hockey League, earning NAHL call-ups from both the Jamestown Rebels and the Kenai River Brown Bears, and swinging a tender to the Brown Bears in January. Wahlin spent eight games in the NAHL, tallying five points in his first taste of Tier II hockey, and also earned a spot on the All-NA3HL First Team.
Forward Matt Dahlseide picked up a first-team spot of his own, and was named the West Division’s Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year. His 67 points ranked second in the division behind Alexandria’s Brandon Connett, and his 42 assists ranked second in the division behind only New Ulm’s Michael Savelkoul.
Rockford, Illinois native Harrison Stewart etched his name among the North Iowa record books in his second season with the Bulls, racking up 46 points on his way to a spot on the league’s Second Team and a selection as the West Division’s Defenseman of the Year. Thanks to his exploits this season, the two-way blue-line standout now holds seven North Iowa records for scoring among defensemen.
Long Lake, Minnesota native Evan Babekuhl was chosen as the West Division’s Goaltender of the Year, racking up 16 wins against just two losses. Five of those wins came by shutout, and his 2.18 goals-against average and .915 save percentage were among the league’s best marks throughout the season. All four were also selected for spots on the All-West Division roster as well.
Babekuhl’s one-time high school teammate, Orono native Jack Kubitz, was chosen to receive the West’s Academic Achievement Award. Kubitz posted a grade-point average of more than 4, and scored a 32 on his ACT, ranking among the top three percent of scores nationwide. He will attend Bethel University for the 2020-21 academic year.
“I’d like to thank the Bulls ownership, our players, staff, volunteers and the entire North Iowa community for their support,” said Bulls head coach Todd Sanden. “They made this recognition possible.”
The Bulls franchise itself wasn’t left out of the fun, earning its league-best fourth Organization of the Year award. The team racked up the player advancement credits, with five NAHL tenders, including four in the month of March alone. 11 North Iowa players and alumni have made college commitments for next season, sending every one of its 1999-born players to an NCAA or ACHA program for next year. Thanks in part to its new home at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena, the Bulls also shattered attendance records, packing the house with 1,242 fans per night. After moving out of the former North Iowa Ice Arena at mid-season, North Iowa averaged 1,585 fans a night in downtown Mason City, including three crowds of more than 2,000. The Bulls previously earned the league’s Organization of the Year award in 2018 and 2014, and shared it with the Metro Jets in 2016.
“Our new ownership was very key to our success this year,” said director of business operations Kathee Corsello. “Moving to a new arena mid-season takes a lot of work, and our success this season wouldn’t have been possible without the ownership, employees, volunteers and community we have.”
The North Iowa Bulls will celebrate their 10th anniversary season in Mason City in 2020-21, and their first full season at the Mason City Multipurpose Arena. Season tickets are now on sale, with early-bird discounts available on this year’s season-ticket prices until the end of April. For more information on 2020-21 season tickets, or to purchase season tickets, call 641-423-4625. Updated news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available at www.northiowabulls.com, and by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.