RIVER FALLS, Wis. – Dayton Honkanen‘s top-shelf snipe from the right wing Saturday night against the Metro Jets wasn’t the biggest goal of his two-year career with the North Iowa Bulls. The same is true of his two game-winners this year against the Rochester Ice Hawks and the Wisconsin Whalers.
The ultimate goal for Honkanen was to find the right place to continue his hockey career, and the Bulls defenseman has found that place with a commitment to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He’s the second North Iowa Bulls player to commit to UWRF in just over a week, following Josh Arnold‘s commitment to the Falcons’ program.
After a solid freshman effort with the Bulls a year ago that included 25 points in 43 games with a pair of power play goals, his game has reached new heights this season. Honkanen ends the month of January with 29 points in 35 games, including those two game-winners. His latest goal on Saturday night was an important one in the moment, stopping a three-goal run by the defending NA3HL runners-up.
Honkanen and Arnold will both play under Steve Freeman, who has built one of the most decorated resumes in Division III hockey over his 22 seasons with the Falcons. Freeman has won 374 games, including eight 20-win seasons and a trip to the Division III Frozen Four in 2001. This season, the Falcons have been navigating choppier skies, though, carrying just six wins into the upcoming weekend.
Both Honkanen’s new coach and one of his assistant coaches have ties to the state of Iowa. Freeman spent two seasons as the head coach of the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in the late 1980s – North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden also spent a short stint in Dubuque in the late ’90s. Assistant coach A.J. Bucchino also saw ice time in Iowa, as a goaltender for the Des Moines Buccaneers in the early 2000s.
Arnold and Honkanen are the first Bulls to commit to the UW-River Falls program, but Honkanen’s commitment marks a milestone for the team. The New Brighton, Minnesota native becomes the 60th player in North Iowa’s seven-year history to take his game to the college ranks, either at the NCAA or ACHA level. Six of those players have found their way to Division I programs, including three who are currently active on D-I rosters.
The North Iowa Bulls congratulate Dayton Honkanen on his college commitment, and wish him the best for his career to come at Wisconsin-River Falls.