The North Iowa Bulls won the USA Hockey Tier III National Championship Monday with a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Junior Hockey League’s Twin Cities Northern Lights in at the Rochester Minnesota Rec Center. It capped off a season where the Bulls won a total of 52 games, including 11 straight wins in the post-season.
North Iowa coach Todd Sanden says it’s one of the best hockey teams he’s ever seen. He says, “These guys have taken care of me all year long. I can’t be prouder of them. From the start of the season to the end of the season, they did nothing but win. You look at our record, it’s outstanding by any standards, and we’re very proud to be involved with these kids. And the community, everybody has shown up and been supportive all year long.”
It was a whirlwind 24-hour period for the Bulls, winning their national semifinal game over the Helena Big Horns of the American West Hockey League in double-overtime late Sunday night, and turning around to play the Northern Lights at noon yesterday. Sanden said the quick turn-around from Sunday’s second semifinal didn’t concern him at all.
He says he liked carrying the momentum of a win in a dramatic fashion, and Twin Cities also sat and watched the Bulls play, which may have given them a false sense that North Iowa would come out tired on Monday. Sanden says the toughest period all season has been the first, and when the score was 1-1 after the first, he felt good since they averaged about six goals a game this season.
Six different Bulls scored in the championship game, something that Sanden proved what he’s known throughout the season…he had a quality roster that just wasn’t led by one or two stars. He says he’s talked about the team’s depth all season, and all four lines scored in the championship game.
He says when you get leadership from your older players and they are committed to getting things done as far as producing points and making sure players are “toeing the line” on the ice as well as off the ice, you’re going to be successful.) Eric Behrend tied the game at 1-1 for the Bulls with 1:19 to go.
Patrick Sivets and Conor Jonasson (JOHN-ah -sun) then extended the lead to 3-1 in the second. The Northern Lights cut the lead to 3-2 with 6:47 to go in regulation, but then North Iowa scored three times in the span of 1:13 with goals by James Hughes, Richie Marenis and an empty netter by Connor Langfield. North Iowa’s championship season comes in the team’s second year in existence in the North American 3 Hockey League.
It’s the second time a junior hockey national championship has been won by a Mason City-based team, as the North Iowa Huskies won the USA Hockey Junior A national championship in 1989
By Bob Fisher KRIB Mason City