Weekend Preview: Willmar Warhawks at North Iowa Bulls


@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (14-2-0, 28 pts) 


IN A NUTSHELL: The Bulls welcome a new but familiar opponent in a brief respite from divisional play, in hopes of extending another lengthy winning streak.

ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 37-1-1 (Bulls have won 36 straight in the series – last loss: Nov. 18, 2011).


LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: North Iowa capped off an incredible October with a pair of wins against the Bulls’ closest Central Division rival – the Rochester Ice Hawks came into Mason City last Friday night, leaving with a 4-1 loss and allowing two power-play goals in the second period that proved to be the difference in the game. R.J. Pluhar picked up his first win as a Bulls goalie in that home game, and Rochester native Brady Meyers earned a win Saturday night in a return to his hometown. The Bulls scored seven straight goals in the second and third periods to beat the Ice Hawks on their home ice, 11-2 – top-line forwards Owen Larson and Marshall Barnes each left the ice with a pair of goals in Saturday’s contest.

THIS WEEK’S PROMOTIONS: Saturday night’s contest is Military Night at the “Madhouse in Mason City” – the Bulls will wear special camouflage jerseys, which will be auctioned off following the game to benefit the Families’ Alliance for Veterans of America.  All active and retired military members will be admitted to Saturday’s game for just $2.

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.



STREAK IS ALIVE AT FIVE: Thanks to the Bulls’ dominant 12-game winning streak, the NA3HL’s Bauer Central Division Star of the Week award is back in Mason City for yet another week. For the first time this season, though, the Bulls have a repeat winner – Steven Mordini was picked as the divisional Star of the Week, with Owen Larson coming away with the number-two Star of the Week nod. Mordini tallied a goal and five assists in the two games against Rochester last weekend, and finished with a +5 rating in the plus/minus category. His only goal of the weekend came on the power play in the second period of Friday’s 4-1 win, and eventually stood up as the game-winning goal. Overall, it’s the sixth time this season that North Iowa has had a player named the league’s Central Division Star of the Week – Mordini picked up the award back in September as well, after North Iowa’s season-opening split against Peoria.

MAN OF THE MONTH (TIMES TWO): With 48 teams in the NA3HL this season, rising to the top of your position and earning one of the league’s three monthly Player of the Month honors is not easy. Not only did the Bulls do it once for October, the hardware for the past 31 days is twice as nice. Mordini was named the league’s Defenseman of the Month for October, with two goals and 12 assists in nine appearances, finishing with a rating of +23 in the plus/minus column. Larson was picked as the league’s Forward of the Month as well, putting up 35 points in just 11 games, including 15 goals. His plus/minus rating for the year is at +37 heading into the weekend against the Warhawks, the top number on the Bulls roster.

HAWK TALK: Stillwater, Minn. native Josh Benson didn’t make the trip to Rochester last weekend with his teammates – while the Bulls went north, Benson went south to Dubuque. The USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks called up Benson as an emergency backup for this past Saturday’s road trip to face the Fighting Saints, and Benson will be back on the bench Friday night as well, when the Hawks host the Youngstown Phantoms. Waterloo goaltender Robbie Beydoun was suspended for two games after kicking an opposing player in last Friday’s game against the Saints. Black Hawks coach P.K. O’Handley is rather familiar with the Mason City area, having served as the head coach of the former North Iowa Huskies in the 1990s. Shortly after his departure from North Iowa, Todd Sanden himself served a short spell in the USHL as the Dubuque Fighting Saints’ head coach.

CALL ME: Connor Clemons also got “the call” this past week to move up – Clemons will be in uniform this week with the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings after officially being called up on Tuesday. Clemons has been a major part of the Bulls’ offense this season on the top line with Larson and Marshall Barnes, notching 15 goals and 19 assists in just 14 appearances – three of those goals have been game-winning tallies as well. It’s not the first time the Bulls and Wings have teamed up on roster moves this year – goalie R.J. Pluhar is settling in well in Mason City after playing two games in Aberdeen earlier this season.

MOVING DAY: Tonight’s game is the 40th against the Warhawks in team history, but none of the previous 39 has actually been against Willmar – the former Minnesota Flying Aces moved from Little Falls, Minn. following the 2015-16 season and an ownership change.  Chris Blaisius also took over the team from Jim Jensen this year as the Warhawks’ new head coach.

ROAD WARRIORS: It would seem the Warhawks have gotten used to hitting the road and playing in a hostile environment – not only has Willmar played seven of its 10 games away from the home Civic Center, but it’s won five of those seven contests on an opponent’s ice. They’ll have a tough task in this weekend’s games, though – the Bulls have won all seven games at home this season, and outscored opponents on the North Iowa ice by a 59-10 margin. Part of the Warhawks’ success, home or away, has been due to an outstanding penalty kill – at 84.6 percent on the road (and 85.7 percent overall), the Warhawks’ penalty kill ranks above that of the Bulls for the year.

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