MASON CITY, Iowa – Two years ago, Nick Bowlin and Konnor Carlson were playing high school hockey against each other in Minnesota. One was a Simley Spartan, one was a Tartan Titan, and both were leaders of teams that finished firmly in the middle of a competitive Metro East Conference race.
Now, they both enter their second seasons as Bulls teammates, pushing toward a common goal of a Fraser Cup national championship.
Bowlin was named the MVP of his Tartan High School squad, which finished that last high school season with 18 wins. As a first-year Bull, Bowlin racked up 25 points, including six goals. The Oakdale native truly emerged in November, after posting just one point over his first nine games. A five-game point streak yielded 10 points, including his first two junior goals in back-to-back games at Breezy Point. The weekend before, his four-assist game against the Willmar WarHawks still stands as a career high.
“We had a good run, and it was tough to come so close and fall at nationals,” said Bowlin. “I think the boys are hungry to come back strong this year. We have some strong talent returning, and I think the boys are set on returning to Chicago.”
Bowlin came up big for North Iowa in the postseason as well, bookending the West Division playoffs with a goal in the opening game against Rochester and the Fraser Cup clincher against Alexandria. He also added an assist in the Bulls’ Fraser Cup loss to Lewiston/Auburn.
“Nick had a tough start to his junior scoring career last season, but he battled through the worst puck luck possible,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “He found a way to be very effective late in the season and elevated himself to a top-six forward spot during the playoffs. Look for Nick to recapture some of his previous scoring touch and be near the top of our offensive categories.”
Carlson had 14 goals and 14 assists in his final season at Simley during the 2017-18 campaign. He finished 2018-19 with 19 points, putting away eight goals in his first season of junior hockey, and had a particular knack for finding the back of the net against the WarHawks. In each of his three-point games against Willmar, he scored two goals, and his second goal in the teams’ December 7 meeting stood as the game-winner.
“This year, I want to accomplish some team goals, such as winning a championship,” said Carlson, “as well as personal goals, like continuing to improve my game to the point that I can play in college. We’re hoping to build on the momentum we built in the back half of the year that carried us to nationals.”
Carlson’s spot on the team was a particular highlight in the locker room as well as on the stat sheet. The Inver Grove Heights native displayed a fun-loving demeanor among his teammates, but showed a hard-nosed edge when it came to dealing with opponents.
“Konnor Carlson is like the Tasmanian Devil on skates, and just about as destructive.” said Sanden. “If you’re flat-footed there’s a good chance he’s flying by you on the way to the net, and if he gets a good look at the net there’s a good chance he’s ripping a puck by you. Konnor will be a player we look to for elevated production and consistent physical play as a veteran.”
North Iowa will need Carlson and Bowlin to be game-changers right away as the 2019-20 season gets underway. This year’s players will report to town over the Labor Day weekend before traveling to face Breezy Point on Friday and Saturday, September 13 and 14.
Season tickets are still available for the Bulls’ ninth season on the ice in North Iowa by calling the front office at 641-423-4625, or by clicking here. The latest news and information on North Iowa Bulls hockey are always available by visiting northiowabulls.com, and through the Bulls’ social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.