MASON CITY, Iowa – The goaltender is the last line of defense for any hockey team, and a good one can be the difference between a deep playoff run and no playoff run at all. Fortunately for head coach Todd Sanden and the North Iowa Bulls, the team could have two goaltenders coming back with their eyes on the NA3HL’s top prize in 2019-20.
After signing a tender with the North American Hockey League’s Minnesota Magicians, a possible return to Mason City is still in play for Montana native Dysen Skinner. The first-year Bull led the team with 18 wins last season, picking up five more in the postseason on the way to a spot in the Fraser Cup semifinals. Of the three shutout wins North Iowa notched a year ago, two belonged to Skinner.
Skinner’s playing time led the group a year ago, much like his 2.44 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Orono, Minnesota native Evan Babekuhl wasn’t far behind, though – the former Minnesota state high school champ played in 15 games, finishing with a 7-5-1 record and a 2.90 goals-against average.
“I’m looking for Evan to make a substantial impact on our season this year,” said head coach Todd Sanden. “Due to numbers last year, playing time was sometimes limited. Evan is a proven winner and we expect him to help our team.”
In the postseason, though, the spotlight belonged to Skinner. After guiding the team to a first-round series win over the Rochester Grizzlies, Skinner helped to engineer a series sweep of the upstart Alexandria Blizzard. An 8-2 victory in a must-win pool-play game against the Helena Bighorns pushed North Iowa to within two wins of the program’s fourth national championship in seven years.
Now, the Bulls’ goaltending staff both old and new will manage a new-look West Division without the Rochester Grizzlies, who switched to the Central Division for this year. The Evansville Jr. Thunderbolts folded after an 0-47 finish a year ago, while the Wisconsin Whalers moved west to become the Sheridan Hawks of the Frontier Division.
“I’m excited to be coming back for another year,” said Babekuhl. “We’ve got a good group of guys coming back, lots of guys with good talent that like to work hard. Hopefully we can make another run like we did last year.”
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.