FRIDAY, JAN. 15 – 7:30 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA)
SATURDAY, JAN. 16 – 7:30 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA)
BREEZY POINT NORTH STARS (15-10-5, 35 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (28-0-1, 57 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
IN A NUTSHELL: A long January homestand continues with a weekend set against another former West Division rival, and a chance to sweep yet another season series.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 26-0-0 (only two meetings have ever gone to overtime)
LAST WEEKEND'S RECAP: The Bulls rumbled to a two-game sweep of the visiting Minnesota Flying Aces last weekend, finishing off a 4-0 run against the Aces for the season and extending their winning streak against them to 36 games. Sean Mallonee kicked off a 9-0 win on Friday night with a pair of goals in the first 13:35 of the game, and Tommy Stang kept the party going with a natural hat trick in the second period. One night after David Johnson earned his first shutout of the year, Zack St. John earned his first home win for the Bulls behind a hat trick from Brett Gravelle. Mallonee, Joe Burgmeier and Austin Jackson each scored two goals in the game. The third period was one of the wildest in recent memory, with six North Iowa goals, four fights, eight ejections and a total of 126 penalty minutes between the teams.
COVERAGE: All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live at fasthockey.com. Both games this weekend are available exclusively on FastHockey, with Vinnie Perricelli on the call. Our free audio webcast schedule resumes with next Saturday night's home game against the La Crosse Freeze.
THESE THINGS TEND TO COME IN THREES: In addition to being the leading scorer in the league and second-leading goal-scorer in the NA3HL, there have been more than a few hats sacrificed for Brett Gravelle's efforts this season. Gravelle has tallied six hat tricks this season in 25 games, and has scored 12 goals just in his last seven outings. By comparison, the top goal scorer in the 3HL (Frankie Melton, St. Louis Jr. Blues) has notched just four hat tricks this season.
THESE HAVE COME THREE (TIMES NINE) AT A TIME: The league-record winning streak continues into the weekend at 27 straight games, which broke another mark from the league's history as the Central States Hockey League. The St. Louis Jr. Blues won 26 straight games to open the league's 2009-10 season, its last before becoming the North American Tier III Hockey League. CSHL records are available to 2006, but all CSHL records remain unofficial – only NA3HL records from 2010-11 forward are officially recognized by the league.
CLOSE CALL: If not for Ryan Durant's second goal of the season, the Bulls' winning streak might be substantially shorter right now. Durant popped one past North Stars goalie Magnus Lindhe 2:44 into the overtime session in their October 10 meeting to seal a 4-2 victory. At the time, the winning streak for Todd Sanden's team was just five games long. The only other meeting to go to the extra session was the second game ever between the teams, on September 22, 2012 (a 6-5 Bulls shootout win).
100 PERCENT, A-PLUS: The series against the North Stars isn't just perfect for North Iowa, it isn't all that close – in those 26 meetings all-time, the Bulls have outscored their green-and-gold counterparts 192-42, and hit double-digits in nine of those games. The all-time high in a Bulls-North Stars outing is 15 goals, set during the team's historic 45-win season in 2013-14.
A-PLUS ON THE PLUS-MINUS, TOO: Cedar Rapids native Alec Nichols and Minnesota native Adam Orn don't pile up goals from their defensive positions, but their shifts certainly are apt to score when they're on the ice – Nichols (+43) and Orn (+42) come into the weekend with the NA3HL's top two plus-minus ratings (a player receives a plus if he is on the ice when his team scores a goal, and a minus when his team allows a goal; his team is not penalized for giving up a power play goal, and does not receive plus-minus credit when scoring one).
SUPERPOWER PLAY: At an even 30 percent, the Bulls have the second-best power play in the entire NA3HL, but it's how consistently the man-advantage has paid off recently that jumps off the page – the Bulls have scored a power play goal in each of the last five games, and are 12-for-32 (37.5%) during that stretch.
PAUPORE – A PRINCE IN NET: The Bulls won't be the only ones looking to make a statement with their play in net – Breezy Point has remained in the hunt for a West Division regular-season title in part thanks to the play of North Stars goalie Wes Paupore. He comes into the weekend with a 4-5-1 record, but that record includes two wins at the league showcase in Blaine, Minnesota against Pittsburgh and West Michigan that helped Jeff Worlton's team finish with a perfect record on the weekend. For his efforts, Paupore was chosen as the final Easton Hockey West Division Star of the Week for 2015.