Weekend Preview: North Iowa Bulls at Chicago Bulldogs

 The Morning Skate 10-21



IN A NUTSHELL: The Bulls can run their winning streak to double-figures with a sweep on the road this weekend against Chicago.

ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 10-0-0 (scoring margin from the teams’ three-game series in Mason City: 33-3, in favor of the Bulls).


LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: Special teams were the storyline of Friday’s road trip to La Crosse for the first half of the home-and-home – the Bulls opened the game with Caylen Dyni‘s power-play goal just 8:05 in, and after a tying goal early in the second, Owen Larson went to work with two goals in a 15-second span – the second would prove to be the game-winner in an 8-2 final. Each team scored a pair of goals on the night with the man-advantage. Saturday’s end of the home-and-home wasn’t as close, with a 2-1 game at the 16-minute mark of the second period turning into a 5-1 runaway with 20 minutes remaining, thanks to two quick goals from Sean Mallonee and another one from Connor Clemons. Three goals in the first 7:45 of the third period gave the Bulls an 8-1 final margin and a seven-game winning streak.

NEXT HOME GAME: The Bulls will play home-and-home number two for the season when they meet up with the Rochester Ice Hawks at “The Barn” next Friday night, followed by Saturday’s road trip to the Med City. Friday’s game is “Fright Night at the Barn,” with special edition Bulls logo t-shirts for sale and special Halloween-themed contests for fans of all ages.

COVERAGE: All North Iowa Bulls games, home and away, are streamed live at HockeyTV.com. Live audio for all home games and select road games is also available for no charge through Mixlr – click the “Listen Live” link at NorthIowaBulls.com, or click here.



TIC-TAC-TOE: For the third week in a row, the Bulls have the Bauer NA3HL Central Division Star of the Week, thanks to Sean Mallonee’s big weekend against La Crosse last week. Mallonee had three goals and three assists, including two of each on Saturday night, and finished with a +4 rating on the weekend. Connor Clemons was chosen as the division’s Star of the Week after his huge weekend against Wisconsin, and Kohei Sato’s huge two appearances against Chicago earlier in the month were more than enough for a Star of the Week honor three weeks back. Overall, the Bulls have had four Central Division Stars of the Week in 2016-17.

EARLY EDITION: It’s exceedingly rare when the Bulls wrap up a season series against a team this early in the season, but that will be accomplished this weekend. The Bulldogs made their three-game trip to Mason City on Sept. 30 – Oct 2, and now North Iowa makes its turnaround trip for three games this weekend. In contrast, the teams did not play their final regular-season games against each other last year until the very last day of the NA3HL regular season.

GOOD AS GOLD AT THE SILVER CUP: This weekend’s visit to Romeoville is also a special trip back for North Iowa, and a number of personnel on this year’s roster. The Bulls won their third Silver Cup title and third national title last year at Canlan Ice Sports, where this weekend’s series will be played. North Iowa won four of the five games at Canlan Ice Sports, including three of the four on the main rink, which is also the Bulldogs’ regular home rink. Two adjacent rinks are also in the facility, and one of them hosted the Bulls’ pool-play win over Great Falls. Head coach Todd Sanden and assistant coach Mark Hicks were on the bench for last season’s championship, plus a half-dozen current Bulls players (including injured defenseman Mike Lyons, who did not appear in a game after the Christmas break).

NAHL PIPELINE: Bulls fans have likely noticed that Kohei Sato is no longer with the team, but he has made quite a name for himself with the Northeast Generals of the NAHL. Sato scored a key go-ahead goal last Friday night against the New Jersey Titans in the first period, that stood as the game-winner until a third-period Titans goal spoiled the Generals’ lead. Northeast would fall in overtime, earning their first point ever in the NAHL standings. He played Thursday night as well, notching an assist in a loss to the Johnstown Tomahawks. Joining the Bulls from the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings this week is goaltender R.J. Pluhar, who went 0-1 in two games with the Wings in the first month of the year.

THAT’S A WINNER: Last Friday’s second goal for Owen Larson was his fourth game-winner of the year, putting him in elite company in the 3HL for the year – only Binghamton’s Ryan Edwards has four game-winning tallies already on the year, and he’s already halfway to the team’s single-season record of eight game-winners, set by Rihards Marenis in 2013-14.

POWER SHORTAGE: If the Bulldogs want to turn around their 0-9 start, special teams is likely a good place to begin – Chicago has gone on the power play 43 times this season (an average of just under five opportunities a game), but they’ve scored on only two of those power-play chances, for a 4.7% rate. That’s the lowest mark in the league this season – by comparison, the Bulls’ 30.3% mark is ninth in the league.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow the North Iowa Bulls all season long through the team’s official Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram pages.