FRIDAY, JAN. 8 – 7:30 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA)
SATURDAY, JAN. 9 – 7:30 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA)
MINNESOTA FLYING ACES (8-17-2, 18 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (26-0-1, 53 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
IN A NUTSHELL: North Iowa will look to repeat the magic of their December road trip to Little Falls when the Minnesota Flying Aces come in for a visit this weekend.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 35-1-1 (Bulls have won 34 in a row in the series).
LAST WEEKEND'S RECAP: The Bulls and Rochester Ice Hawks got a Friday night away from each other between their two New Year's holiday meetings last week. The Bulls went on the road and peppered Zach Mains with 66 shots in a 6-1 win on Thursday to cap off a stellar 2015 portion of their schedule, and then went back to home ice Saturday night to light up the Ice Hawks defense for another 7-2 triumph. Mains faced 54 shots in that contest as well, giving the Bulls two of their three highest shot totals of the season.
THIS WEEKEND'S PROMOTIONS: Saturday night's game is "Skate Against Cancer" Night at the North Iowa Ice Arena – Skate Against Cancer t-shirts will be available at the game for $15, with $9 from each t-shirt going directly to the Relay For Life.
COVERAGE: All Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live at fasthockey.com. Friday night's game is available exclusively on FastHockey, with Vinnie Perricelli on the call. Saturday night's game will also feature a free audio webcast on northiowabulls.com, with Austin Draude on the play-by-play. Pregame coverage Saturday night starts at 7:15 p.m.
MAGIC IN MINNESOTA: Bulls forward Austin Jackson will be looking to recapture the magic he had in the team's December 4 win in Little Falls. He tied a league record with six goals in North Iowa's 8-1 win, and also added an assist on Alec Nichols's late goal.
SHINING STAR: Minot native Quinn Fuchs' two hot starts against the Ice Hawks earned him another Easton Hockey Central Division Star of the Week award for the team – Fuchs scored the first two goals (including the eventual game-winner) in Thursday's 6-1 win in Rochester, and then scored the second goal of Saturday night's 7-2 win. His effort on the scoring lines also netted him a +4 plus/minus bump on the weekend. The award is North Iowa's fourth straight, and eighth of the year.
CAN YOU TAKE ME HIGHER: 17-year-old forward Sean Mallonee remains an important cog in the Bulls' offensive machine after coming in from the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips. Mallonee has scored four goals in his nine games with the team, and what was expected to be a rehab stint with North Iowa has turned into an expected stay for the remainder of the season. Backup goaltender Zack St. John has not seen any game action outside of the NA3HL this season, but did earn a practice call-up for a couple of days by the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks prior to the new year. Current Hawks assistant coach Steve Howard spent two years in the 3HL as the Flint Jr. Generals' head coach, and Aces head coach Jim Jensen was a three-year player in Waterloo under Scott Koberinski and current Hawks bench boss P.K. O'Handley.
FRIEND OR FOE: The Flying Aces have only won two games in the last two months, but a former Bull is responsible for one of those two game-winning goals. Joe Guimont started a three-goal rally for the Aces on December 19 at the NA3HL Showcase, helping his team pull away from a 2-2 tie for a 5-2 win. His goal at 11:27 of the third period was the eventual game-winner against the Thunderbolts, and gave the Flying Aces a 2-1 finish in Blaine.
GOOD EGGS AND GOOSE-EGGS: The NA3HL shutout record for Tommi Ahlgren remains so close, yet so far away – Ahlgren has registered five shutouts this season, just one away from the 3HL's record of six. The record-tying shutout was just 40 seconds away last Thursday night when Colin Hass lit the lamp and put Rochester on the board. David Johnson, on the other hand, has been perfectly imperfect this year – Johnson (who tied the 3HL shutout record last year with his six perfect showings) is a perfect 12-0 for the season, but has given up at least one goal in every one of his outings. It hasn't hurt his average much – his 1.75 goals-against average is third in the league, and his .930 save percentage is also among the league's best.
I'VE GOT THE POWER: The Bulls already have one of the most efficient power-play units in the league, and that power-play unit flexed its muscles last weekend against the Ice Hawks. The last three North Iowa goals of 2015 all came on the power play after building a 3-0 New Year's Eve lead, and for good measure, Todd Sanden's bunch added a 2-for-5 showing last Saturday on the man-advantage at home. The 28.4% power play mark going into the weekend is second-best in the NA3HL, behind only the St. Louis Jr. Blues (32.2%).
SCORING DYNAMO: Brett Gravelle may no longer be the top goal-scorer in the league, but he remains one of its hottest scorers – only he and Wisconsin's Ben Ratner can claim five-game goal-scoring streaks going into the weekend. Of Gravelle's 23 games this season he has failed to score a point in only four, and he's lit the lamp at least once in 16 of those 23 games.