Weekend Preview: Wisconsin Whalers at North Iowa Bulls

Jan 14, 2017

The Morning Skate 1-14




IN A NUTSHELL: The Bulls return to the North Iowa ice for their first home game of 2017.

ALL-TIME SERIES: North Iowa leads, 17-2-1 (record in divisional play: 9-1-1).


LAST WEEKEND’S RECAP: North Iowa made history on its road trip to La Crosse last Saturday night – twice – for the wrong reasons. The Bulls were shut out for only the second time in franchise history, and for the first time in regulation, in a 2-0 loss to the Freeze. The power-play unit, which had converted on nine of its previous 16 chances, came up empty on four opportunities in Drew Scites‘s first-ever appearance in a Bulls uniform – instead, it was a first-period power-play goal for the home team that made all the difference. The former Prior Lake High School goaltender made 33 stops on 35 Freeze shots, but Will Graves earned his first shutout of the year for La Crosse, stopping all 39 chances that came his way. In 15 games against the Bulls (as both the La Crosse Freeze and the Flint Jr. Generals) it was the team’s first-ever win in the series.

THIS WEEK’S PROMOTIONS: Saturday is “YMCA Night” at the North Iowa Ice Arena. Fans who bring their YMCA pass card to the game and display it at the ticket window will receive $2 off their admission to the contest. Bulls fans can also buy a raffle ticket for just $5, to win a replica of the team’s 2016 Silver Cup national championship banner. For information on all upcoming Bulls promotions, click the “Game Day Fun” link at NorthIowaBulls.com, or click here.

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.



RARE AIR: Last Saturday, Will Graves joined Granite City netminder Mac Berglove as the only goalies to ever shut out the Bulls in the team’s nearly-six-year history. The Bulls played their 300th game in team history at last year’s Silver Cup championship, making last Saturday’s loss the 331st game in franchise history. Berglove and the Lumberjacks shut out the Bulls in January of last year, but the game could have easily been another North Iowa shutout – the teams went into overtime of that game in a scoreless tie. The Bulls have shut out their opponents 47 times in team history, including 14 times in the 2015-16 campaign alone.

RAT RACE: When the Whalers have gotten on the scoreboard, Ben Ratner has usually been there to thank in one role or another – the second-year Wisconsin forward has had a point on 13 of the team’s 14 goals since they returned from the Christmas break, including three goals and nine assists on the team’s 12 tallies last weekend (his goal last Thursday against La Crosse was the game-winner). That effort helped him beat out Will Graves for the Bauer Hockey NA3HL Central Division Star of the Week Award this week. Drew Steines and Anthony Fortin combined for the team’s first goal last night, the only time Ratner hasn’t been involved in a Whalers goal since the start of 2017.

WHERE STARS ARE BORN: The two teams have had quite a history with the Central Division Star of the Week Award this season – in the last 14 weeks of competition, either a North Iowa Bull or a Wisconsin Whaler has won the honor 12 times. La Crosse Freeze forward Sam Dabrowski and Rochester Ice Hawks forward Spencer Hadacek are the only players from different teams to win the divisional honor since the start of October.

FAMILIAR FACES: Tonight’s game is likely to feature a familiar face for the Bulls – or at least the name will be familiar. Tyler Bump joins the team this weekend from the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians – his older brother is Connor Bump, who was a key presence on the North Iowa blue line over the last two years, and helped lead the team to both of its most recent national titles. The elder Bump played 96 games for the Bulls and scored 15 goals for the team, including six in the postseason last year. The younger Bump has scored eight goals in his 71 games in a Magicians uniform. He also becomes the latest in a recent string of top Prior Lake High School players to wear the home team’s sweater in “The Barn.”

IOWA TIES: The middle of Tom McDermott’s forward line chart is loaded with Iowa talent – specifically, talent from the city of Dubuque. Three of the Whalers’ top six scorers this season are all from the Dubuque area, including Drew Steines and Anthony Fortin – the two combined on the team’s first goal against Rochester last night. Carter Grobstick was the top scorer on last year’s Dubuque Devils high-school club team, and Jimmy McDermott was named to the Midwest High School Hockey League’s All-Star team as a forward.

DRIVE HOME SAFELY: The Whalers are about to load up their home schedule, and not a moment too soon – while Wisconsin is 7-3-0 in their 10 games on home ice in Oregon, Wis., they’ve come away with just four wins and 12 points in their 20 contests on the road. 13 of the final 16 games on their schedule will be played at home, with two of the three road games to be played against the Chicago Bulldogs. Eight of those final 16 games are also against teams in the West and Midwest Divisions – the Whalers remain winless over the first eight games of the year against those two divisions, but seven of those contests were played on the other team’s home rink.

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