SOLDOTNA, Alaska – Thanksgiving week meant lots of travel for everyone on the North Iowa Bulls roster. Most of them were gearing up for a road trip to Willmar on Wednesday night, a quick jaunt home for the holiday with family, a trip back to Mason City for a Black Friday home game, and an up-and-back bus ride to New Ulm on Saturday.
Those plans changed in some form for everyone – for most, it was simply the postponement of the Willmar trip and the changes in Thanksgiving travel plans along with it. For Lucas Wahlin, though, it was a detour to the North American Hockey League with the Jamestown Rebels.
That stay didn’t last – after five games in as many weeks, Wahlin returned to North Iowa and picked up right where he left off with the Bulls prior to Thanksgiving. However, after his stay in the NAHL’s East Division this season, Wahlin will start next season by heading west.
The Woodbury, Minnesota native has signed a tender with the Kenai River Brown Bears, the first Bulls player to sign an NAHL tender this season. Any NAHL appearances for Wahlin during the remainder of this season will be made with Kenai River, and he will start next season with a chance to make the Brown Bears roster for 2020-21. As part of his tender, he is no longer eligible for the NAHL Draft coming up this spring.
The former Hill-Murray High School standout has quickly made a name for himself at the junior level, leading the team with 20 goals. His 39 points ranks third on the team, despite missing nine games and the NA3HL Showcase while in the NAHL.
“I think Lucas Wahlin is a no-brainer for the Kenai River Brown Bears right now, with Kevin Murdock as their head coach,” said Bulls head coach Todd Sanden. “Kevin is a tremendous developer of skill, and he’s a very bright young coach that manages his players very professionally. We’re excited that Lucas tendered with Kenai, and we look forward to his success there. We don’t see him coming back to the North Iowa Bulls after this year.”
His future head coach is as familiar with the Bulls way as anyone – Murdock spent three years on the North Iowa coaching staff, leaving his post as an associate head coach this past spring after being hired by the Brown Bears.
“I’ve had the opportunity to watch Lucas for the past few seasons prior to him joining the Bulls,” said Murdock. “I’ve always really liked his work ethic and his ability to play at both ends of the ice. The success he’s had so far with the Bulls really sealed the deal for us as far as being a guy we wanted to get on board for next season.”
North Iowa has built a long history of sending players on to the next level, with more than 40 North Iowa players suiting up in the NAHL after playing for the Bulls. Eight of those players eventually landed spots on NCAA Division I rosters.
The North Iowa Bulls congratulate Lucas Wahlin on his NAHL tender with the Kenai River Brown Bears, and wish him continued success as he takes the next step in his hockey career.