WEST DIVISION FINALS – GAME 1
April 9, 2021 – 7:30 p.m.
Mason City Multipurpose Arena – Mason City, Iowa
WILLMAR WARHAWKS (24-18-0-0)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (29-11-2-1)
LIVE STATS: CLICK HERE
BULLS vs. WILLMAR ALL-TIME: 22-2-2
TONIGHT’S PROMOTIONS: The Bulls begin the West Division Finals, in what may be the team’s final home game as an NA3HL team. For a schedule of upcoming promotions, click here.
MAKING HISTORY: Willmar made history by advancing to this year’s West Division Finals – the two-game semifinal sweep against the Granite City Lumberjacks is the first playoff series win ever for the WarHawks, after falling in a two-game sweep to Granite City in their only other playoff appearance in 2018. Thanks to the New Jersey Titans’ two-game win over the Danbury Jr. Hat Tricks in the East Division, they are also the second team in the NA3HL this season to earn an upset bid into the division finals with a sweep. The WarHawks’ two-game win over the Lumberjacks marks the only time a West Division underdog has swept its way into the division finals. The Minnesota Flying Aces – Willmar’s predecessor team – made the playoffs just twice from 2011-16 and never won a postseason game.
FEEL FREE: Only one North Iowa player notched a point in all three games against Alexandria, and though his numbers haven’t been gaudy recently, he’s been a difference-maker in every game. Garrett Freeman has been a true “steady Eddie” for the Bulls over the last month, posting points in six of the team’s last nine regular-season contests, including the game-winner in a pivotal March 19 win over Granite City. His third-period goal in Game 1 kept the Bulls’ hopes alive, and his goal just a minute-and-a-half into Game 2 touched off a scoring barrage that led to a 5-1 North Iowa win.
CH-CH-CHANGES: After a long and dominant run in the head-to-head series, the battle has become significantly more even between the teams in the second half of the season – an overtime loss at home on February 14 ended an 18-game head-to-head winning streak against the WarHawks, as well as an 11-game home winning streak in the head-to-head series. In all, North Iowa closed out the regular season with victories in seven of their 10 get-togethers with Willmar.
TAKE A LONG LAST LOOK (?): Unless this series goes to a deciding third game, this contest will be the last night on home ice for no fewer than six North Iowa Bulls players, none of whom appeared in the team’s last trip to the Fraser Cup championship tournament in 2019. (Goaltender Evan Babekuhl was on the roster, but did not play in the tournament.) This could also be the last glimpse Bulls fans get at home of an NA3HL North Iowa Bulls squad. The Bulls have posted an unreal 196-28-11 record on home ice since entering the league in 2011, including a 20-0-2 mark during the team’s first NA3HL championship season in 2012-13 and a 24-1 mark at home the following year on their way to a second Silver Cup.
MEDIA NOTES (click the arrow to expand):