Weekend Preview: Wisconsin Whalers at North Iowa Bulls


@ NORTH IOWA BULLS (5-2-0, 10 pts) 


IN A NUTSHELL: North Iowa continues their quest to stay unbeaten in Central Division play as they host Wisconsin for a two-game weekend set.

ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 14-2-1 (Bulls won last year’s season series, 6-1-1).


LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: At the start of the Bulls’ 2016-17 home schedule, they picked up right where the 2015-16 home schedule left off with three dominant wins over the Chicago Bulldogs. The Bulls opened Friday’s 14-1 win with 11 consecutive goals to start the game, including a hat trick from Kohei Sato – each ‘Dogs goalie was yanked from the game once, forcing Jacob Dittmer to return to the game in the middle of the second period, just five minutes after departing the contest. Saturday’s 7-1 contest was the closest of the three – this time Chicago got the first goal of the night, but two goals from Sato and the eventual game-winner and insurance goal from Owen Larson in the second made the difference as Josh Benson won his Bulls debut. Sean Mallonee rippled the net twice in a 12-1 win Sunday afternoon to cap off the weekend – all four Bulls goals in the third period came in a five-minute span, and Brady Meyers made 24 stops for his first North Iowa win.

THIS WEEK’S PROMOTIONS: Saturday is “Welcome Back Hockey” night at the Bulls game – all Mason City youth hockey players and their families will be admitted to the game for just $5.

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.



THIS IS HOME: The eighth goal of North Iowa’s 12-1 win on Sunday was the first of the season for Mason City native Lucas McKinnon – the former Mason City Mohawk racked up 60 points in a two-year run as a prep at “The Barn” while attending West Fork High School in nearby Sheffield. He departed to join the AAA-level Northeast Wisconsin Jr. Gamblers in 2014-15, and led a unified high school program in Appleton, Wis. to last year’s Wisconsin high school state tournament. His last goal on home ice came on Feb. 22, 2014 for the Mohawks in a loss to the Dubuque Devils.

STARS: Not surprisingly, Kohei Sato earned some much-deserved hardware for the week after putting six goals in the net against Chicago last weekend, including Friday’s hat trick, and helping out on four others. The 10 points for the weekend puts the third-year North Iowa forward atop the team’s scoring list with 12 points heading into the weekend. Defenseman Mike Lyons was named the division’s Second Star after tallying four assists, including three on Saturday evening.

ON FIRE: Sato has one of the longest goal-scoring streaks in the league heading into the weekend – not only has he scored in all five of his appearances this season, he scored in both the semifinal and final games at the Silver Cup tournament last year, as well as the first two pool-play games. His seven-game goal-scoring streak is the longest current streak in the league.

LIVE IT WELL: In just seven games this season, the Bulls are averaging nearly seven goals a game, a mark that only Gillette, Peoria and Long Beach have achieved in the opening four weeks of the NA3HL slate. The list of teams that have scored more than double the number of goals they’ve allowed includes the Bulls, but is a little less exclusive – 13 teams are included in that list, and that includes the Atlanta Capitals, who have played only two games so far.

RISE ABOVE IT: Wisconsin has rarely been out of a game this season, despite a 0-4-1 start to the year – the Whalers have scored 18 goals in those five games this season but their defense has let them down despite several solid offensive efforts. The Whalers have already lost 7-5 and 6-5 games to La Crosse, including the latter game in overtime last Thursday in La Crosse. Wisconsin’s goalies haven’t exactly been under siege so far, but at 37 shots allowed per game, the number of scoring opportunities for their opponents is certainly higher than it needs to be.

DARE YOU TO MOVE: Wisconsin has been doing plenty of moving around early in the season – this weekend’s games are smack in the middle of a 10-game road trip for the Whalers, and a stretch that will see them play 12 of their first 15 games away from the Oregon Ice Arena. The Bulls are enjoying a brief homestand after starting their own season with four straight games on the road, with six games in a seven-game stretch on home ice at the “Madhouse in Mason City.”

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