The Morning Skate 1-27
FRIDAY, JAN. 27 – 7:30 P.M., NORTH IOWA ICE ARENA (MASON CITY, IOWA)
SATURDAY, JAN. 28, 7:10 P.M., NEW ULM CIVIC CENTER (NEW ULM, MINN.)
NORTH IOWA BULLS (26-5-1, 53 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
vs. NEW ULM STEEL (18-13-1, 37 pts) (ROSTER, STATS)
IN A NUTSHELL: North Iowa returns from a weekend off to take on an old nemesis and start a stretch of back-to-back non-divisional weekends.
ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 35-6-2 (North Iowa has never swept a season series against the Steel).
LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: The only action the Bulls have seen in their last couple of weeks has been on the exhibition front – a powerful Shattuck-St. Mary’s team put away North Iowa twice since their last NA3HL contest. The Sabres came into the Bulls’ home barn on Thursday, Jan. 19 and knocked North Iowa off 6-2, building up a 4-0 lead before Dayton Honkanen tallied a goal to break the seal late in the second period. Tyler Bump earned a tally of his own early in the third, but a pair of third-period goals in short order for Shattuck-St. Mary’s helped to finish off the contest. Sam Stevens and Grisha Gotovets added a pair of goals apiece in the turnaround game this past Wednesday, helping S-SM head off their home ice with a 5-2 victory. Mitch Parsons and Josh Arnold tallied third-period goals for the visitors, including a power-play deflection halfway through the period for Arnold’s goal.
COVERAGE: All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live at HockeyTV.com. All home games and select road games are also audio-streamed at no charge through Mixlr – click the “Listen Live” link at NorthIowaBulls.com, or click here.
BLADES OF STEEL: This weekend’s home-and-home against the Steel will mark Sean Mallonee‘s first action against New Ulm since a skate to the neck caused a laceration and an overnight hospital stay back on Dec. 2. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Mallonee, becoming the sixth North Iowa player this season to earn an NAHL call-up. It hasn’t been a long one, but it did mark his debut on the Tier II stage as a member of the Janesville Jets. He never did tally a point in last weekend’s games against the Minnesota Magicians, but did see action and register a shot in both games for the Midwest Division’s first-place team.
FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY…: This has also been a week of recognition for former North Iowa players. Goaltender Josh Benson, who began the season with the Bulls, earned the NAHL’s Bauer Hockey Midwest Division Star of the Week Award after winning all three games in a long weekend for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. He stopped all but three shots out of 50 in a sweep of the Northeast Generals, including a 1-0 shutout last Friday. The Stillwater, Minn. native has settled in well in Alaska, notching a 4-3-0 record with a 1.72 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage since being called up at the beginning of December.
…AND STING LIKE A BEE: Some of this week’s recognition is being done at the NCAA Division I level as well – former North Iowa forward Dominik Florian was named Atlantic Hockey’s Rookie of the Week after contributing three goals and an assist in last weekend’s series against the Niagara Purple Eagles. He’s made quite the impact in his first year as a Yellow Jacket – his 10 goals for the season put him at the top of the team’s goal-scoring leaderboard heading into this weekend’s series against Canisius.
MISTER CLEAN: It’s not likely that the penalty box will be well-populated during these two contests – New Ulm is near the bottom of the NA3HL penalty-minute list with a dainty 15.8 minutes per game in the box, and North Iowa isn’t far above them at 21 minutes a game. Especially in Friday’s game, though, the Steel will need to clean up on whatever the North Iowa special teams give them – their 11.8-percent mark on the road is sixth from the bottom in the 48-team circuit. The Bulls are running at a 30.5 percent clip on the man-advantage, including a gaudy 34 percent at home. Their home penalty-killing unit is atop the league leaderboard, at 95.5 percent.
MOTION SECONDED: There has been much said this season about North Iowa’s struggles to put together a solid 60-minute effort, but once Todd Sanden’s team has its motor running, it runs hot. The Bulls have scored 92 goals in the second period this season, more than any other team in the league and nearly half of their total for the entire season, and it’s helped them hit the highest scoring average in the league this season (6.56 per game). Only one other team (Long Beach) has scored 80 goals or more in a single period yet this year.
YER OUTTA HERE: Marshall Barnes has one of the longest home assist streaks in the league, notching at least one helper in 14 home games in a row. He won’t get to add on to that total this weekend, though – Barnes was suspended from Friday’s game as a result of his role in the third-period fracas against Wisconsin back on Jan. 14. Nine players were sent to the showers early in that game, either by ejection or by virtue of a misconduct penalty that would have carried beyond the end of regulation, and over 200 penalty minutes were handed out in the third period alone.