MASON CITY — When the North Iowa Bulls open postseason play today vs. Rochester inside the North Iowa Ice Arena, they’ll do so with a little bit different feeling than the past.
Even with a 35-win season, the Bulls aren’t the favorite to repeat as Silver Cup Champions, and they’re just fine with that.
“I think we’re definitely an upset-minded team,” North Iowa coach Todd Sanden said. “When you look at the NA3HL overall, we’re the (eighth-best team) but we’re still very good. We reached the 35-win milestone which was a goal we wanted to reach.”
At 35-10-1-1, North Iowa may not have the resume it’s had heading into the postseason like in previous years, but it still has one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the league which makes it believe another run is possible.
Their offense has been as balanced across all of its lines as it’s ever been and their No. 1 goalie Drew Scites has steadily improved as the season has gone on.
The Bulls have four players with 60 or more points this season and have nine players who have recorded double-digits in goals. Marshall Barnes has a team-high 74 points (23 goals and 51 assists) and Connor Clemmons leads the team with 33 goals.
“When you look at our depth, I think it’s all been there,” Sanden said. “I think it will be hard to focus on a key individual or two, or a key in on a line because you never know who’s going to get it done on a given night.”
In a few of their losses this season, though, playing a full 60 minutes has been the issue as lapses led to breakdowns. Sanden said over the past few weeks they’ve done better with that but they need to keep that going if another playoff run is in store.
North Iowa faces a Rochester team which didn’t record a win in the series this season (0-6) but has been able to keep a few of those games within one goal by the time the final horn blew.
In light of that, Sanden said it doesn’t matter who the opponent is this time of year.
“I think the big thing is you have to respect every playoff team because every team is amped up,” the coach said. “ They are a playoff team so you need to bring your best.”