NA3HL SILVER CUP TOURNAMENT
Bulls Daily 3-31
FRIDAY, MAR. 31 – 7:30 P.M., CANLAN ICE SPORTS (ROMEOVILLE, ILL.)
LONG BEACH SHARKS (35-10-2, 72 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
vs. NORTH IOWA BULLS (35-10-2, 72 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
IN A NUTSHELL: North Iowa’s Silver Cup chances are still alive, but they’ll need a win in their final pool play game of the tournament and a little bit of help.
ALL-TIME SERIES: First-ever meeting (Long Beach: first year in NA3HL).
LAST NIGHT’S RECAP: The drive for a title is still alive after the Bulls upset the Binghamton Jr. Senators last night, 3-2 in overtime – Sean Mallonee gave the Bulls early hope with two goals in the opening 40 minutes, but the momentum shifted after a violent Tyler Bump hit in the third period and a five-minute Binghamton power play. Connor Landrigan would score twice in the final 7:01 of the game to send it to the extra session, and Mallonee would nearly finish off the hat trick before dropping a pass to Nick Klishko in front of the net. His point-blank shot beat Salvatore Lauretta just 49 seconds into the extra session, and sent the Bulls into the third day with a second chance at a semifinal spot.
THIS WEEKEND’S TOURNAMENT: North Iowa is playing in Pool B at the Silver Cup tourney, losing to the Yellowstone (Wyo.) Quake on Wednesday 4-2. The two newcomers from last year’s NA3EHL are also on the schedule this week, with the Bulls beating Binghamton (N.Y.) 3-2 in overtime on Thursday and facing Long Beach (N.Y.) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The top two teams from each of the two pools will play in the semifinals Saturday afternoon, with a champion to be crowned Sunday afternoon at 1:00.
COVERAGE: All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live on HockeyTV. Silver Cup tournament games will be streamed exclusively on HockeyTV. Bulls play-by-play voice Austin Draude will have the call for all of the team’s games in Romeoville, starting about 10 minutes before the opening faceoff.
GOIN’ COASTAL: This is the first time the Bulls and Sharks have ever met on the ice, but it’s the second time North Iowa has run into a Coastal Division team this year – North Iowa clobbered the New England Stars, the Coastal runner-up this season, 8-1 at the NA3HL Showcase in December. The Stars and Sharks played a trio of 4-3 contests in the division finals last weekend, with the Sharks winning Games 1 and 3 to advance.
SHAKE IT UP: North Iowa’s Silver Cup title hopes are still very much alive, but a new three-point tiebreaker system and their loss to the Yellowstone Quake on Wednesday night still have the Bulls on shaky ground going into the final game. A Binghamton win against Yellowstone on Friday would give them no fewer than six points out of a possible nine, and clinch the spot in the Silver Cup semifinals – the Bulls only received two points for the overtime win, and can get to no more than five points out of nine for the weekend. Should Binghamton tie with the Bulls in the points column, North Iowa would advance thanks to their head-to-head win.
EVEN STEVEN: The records may be the same, but the Bulls had a decided advantage in swiping the number-6 seed from the Sharks at the end of the regular season. Each team finished 35-10-2 in the regular-season standings, including one shootout loss and one overtime loss. However, all other tiebreakers, including regulation wins (31-26), regulation/overtime wins (34-33), and goal differential (157-99) pointed North Iowa toward the higher seed.
SCOUTING THE SHARKS: No team in the Silver Cup tournament is a one-trick pony, but Mike Stanaway’s team has two pretty good horses on the top line. Former Casper Coyote Martins Vitolins (who was a teammate of Josh Arnold in Casper last year) set the 3HL scoring record this year with 163 points, and has scored a point in 50 of his 52 games heading into tonight. Swedish import Oskar Lindberg was right behind, with 149 points for the regular season and at least one point in 52 of his 53 appearances. Stanaway has seen the team through its shift from the USPHL to the NA3EHL to the NA3HL in a three-year span, and will bring a gritty group into this evening’s game with a chance to knock out the defending champs. Their penalty-killing unit is also an interesting story – Long Beach scored 24 shorthanded goals this season, far and away the standard in the league, but their penalty-killing percentage during the year stood at 81.4 percent, 19th in the league.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Bulls have an impressive streak on the line in tonight’s game – not only has Todd Sanden’s club reached the Silver Cup tournament for the fifth straight year, they have played in the finals each of the past four seasons. That run is in jeopardy with one night of pool play to go, and will come to an end if they are not able to make it through to the semifinal round.
LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD: 2017-18 season tickets are on sale now – adult season tickets for all 22 home games next year are just $200, or reserve a family’s worth of season tickets for just $500. 10-game flex vouchers are also available for just $85. For more information, or to reserve your 2017-18 season tickets in “The Barn,” click here.