September 19, 2020 – 7:00 p.m.
Mason City Multipurpose Arena @ Mason City, IA
ROCHESTER GRIZZLIES (2019-20: 37-8-1-1)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (2019-20: 38-7-2-0)
BULLS vs. ROCHESTER ALL-TIME: 6-6-1
PROMOTIONAL SCHEDULE: Other than the customary admission discount for a preseason game, there are no promotions on the schedule for this matchup – however, the Bulls’ promotional schedule will be released next week.
RECAP THE ROAR: The Bulls’ visitors for this game were in the doldrums of the league just two years ago under previous ownership, but last year set a new milestone in their return to the top of the standings – Rochester won 37 games a year ago, earning its first regular-season title of any kind since the former Ice Hawks’ Minnesota Junior Hockey League division title and Bush Cup championship loss in 2015. The Ice Hawks won just 26 games over the following three seasons, but the Austin Bruins’ purchase of the team in 2018 helped to push the program to a third-place West Division finish in 2018-19 and push the Bulls to the brink in a three-game West Division semifinal. Last year’s team won nine of its first 11, and never looked back on the way to the top of the Central Division charts. Joey Fodstad’s 54 points led the team, and four other Grizzlies finished the year with 40 points or more.
HOME COOKING: Defending home ice has been ultra-important recently in this head-to-head series. The home team won each of the four meetings a year ago, including a January 4 affair that saw more than 2,000 pack into the Mason City Multipurpose Arena for only the second game ever played on this rink. All three wins in their 2019 playoff series also went to the home team. The Grizzlies lead the head-to-head series on the strength of an overtime win in Mason City near the end of the 2018-19 regular season.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: The Bulls bring back a solid core of standouts from last year’s West Division championship group as they look to whittle down the roster for 2020-21. 10 players are back after suiting up for Todd Sanden’s team in 2019-20, including four defensemen and both goaltenders. A familiar name from elsewhere in the West Division is also on the preliminary roster, as Garrett Freeman makes the move from the former Breezy Point North Stars franchise. Freeman tallied 30 goals for the North Stars last season, the first Breezy Point player ever to reach that mark. Evan Babekuhl and Joe Daninger return after combining for 26 wins last season, including 13 wins after making the move downtown at the New Year’s break.
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