MASON CITY, Iowa – The North Iowa Bulls aren’t simply about creating good hockey players and sending them out into the world. The hope is to do as much of that as possible, but creating good leaders is also part of the expectation.
This year, four North Iowa alumni are among the leaders this season for their NCAA Division III college hockey teams. Adam Orn has been named a captain for defending Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference runner-up St. John’s, while Joe Burgmeier is on the captains’ list for Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Bulls alumni are pulling double duty this season for St. Thomas, with Brett Gravelle and Johnny Panvica both landing captains’ slots with the Tommies.
Orn recorded 19 points in his first three seasons with the Johnnies, taking over a captains’ role at St. John’s after serving as a captain on the Bulls’ 2015-16 national championship team and earning the NA3HL’s Defenseman of the Year honor. The Anoka, Minnesota native has set the bar off the ice as well, earning an All-America Scholar honor last year as he pursues a degree in economics.
“Adam has been a great player and leader for SJU the past three years,” said Johnnies head coach Doug Schueller. “I am very happy for him and our team that he was named captain for this season. Adam brings composure and confidence to the ice in his play and through his leadership. Adam will be another great captain for SJU hockey.”
Burgmeier was a star on the ice in Mason City long before joining the Bulls, racking up 230 points in four years as a Mason City Mohawks high school standout before joining the North Iowa roster in 2014. The multi-sport Newman Catholic star led the Bulls to a national championship in 2015, before returning at midseason the following year and helping the team win another title. His career scoring total for the Mohawks still ranks third on the Midwest High School Hockey League’s all-time scoring list, and he tacked on 122 more while playing for the Bulls.
“Joe is a leader of leaders, and a professional young man,” said Cobbers head coach Chris Howe. “His presence in our program inspires me and his teammates. When you are in a room with Joe, he has the charisma and confidence that makes others around him feel like they can lead as well, and he is a darn good hockey player. He competes like crazy, and can really impact a game.”
Panvica was the only one of the four to move on to the North American Hockey League for good following his time as a Bull. The Bloomington, Minnesota native racked up 62 points in 40 games during that 2014-15 campaign before posting 26 points the next season for the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians. He quickly made an impact after joining the Tommies roster, averaging a point per game over his first three seasons. The accounting major carries a 3.98 grade-point average, which leads the team.
Gravelle was a record-breaker for the Bulls during his two years with the franchise, with nearly 200 points in a North Iowa uniform during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. His 57 goals during the latter season broke an NA3HL record, and 33 of those points came in the postseason on the way to the team’s two national championships. The Forest Lake, Minnesota native is nearing the 100-point mark for his collegiate career, and was named to the all-MIAC team each of the last two seasons. Gravelle is pursuing a major in actuarial science at St. Thomas, with a 3.52 grade-point average.
“They were leaders here, on and off the ice,” said North Iowa head coach Todd Sanden. “We’re not surprised that they’re leaders where they’re at, but it certainly is something to take note of. Kids come in here to develop, and move on to bigger and better things, so I think it’s awesome that they’ve gotten those opportunities.”
St. John’s starts MIAC play this weekend with a series against Bethel University, while each of the other two teams will travel to face teams from Wisconsin. Concordia-Moorhead will travel to UW-River Falls, facing former Bulls Dayton Honkanen and Josh Arnold. Peter Verstegen and Brady Meyers will lead Wisconsin-Stout up against the Tommies this weekend in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
53 North Iowa alumni are currently playing college hockey across the nation, including 30 at the NCAA Division III level.
(photo credits: St. Thomas Sports Information; Concordia Sports Information; Sierra Lammi, St. John’s Sports Information)