MASON CITY — The North Iowa Bulls have had some pretty good teams and some good talent come through the program since arriving in Mason City in 2011. But what the Bulls have done through six games at the start of this season – all wins – has coach Todd Sanden’s attention.
“I told our kids this week that, ‘Guys, you’ve got to understand that we’ve had some unbelievable teams here and you are at this point of the season on par with some of the others,’” Sanden said. “For them, you have to maintain the effort, maintain the focus and dedication, but all indicators are these guys are heavily focused.”
This past weekend was good enough reason for Sanden to throw around those words.
With a little flexibility in who the Bulls play outside of their division, Sanden wanted a new challenge this season. The team: the Metro Jets, who have played for the Silver Cup each of the past two seasons and owned the league’s longest regular-season winning streak. The Bulls beat Metro for the 2016 Silver Cup.
With all that in mind, the series was a chance for the Bulls to gauge where they’re at in this young season. The result was exactly what Sanden was hoping for as North Iowa swept the Jets and ended their record 57-game winning streak.
“With so many returning players who fell a bit short last year, they are committed and they’re committed to one thing and that’s winning the Silver Cup,” Sanden said. “I think in their heads they have an idea about how games need to be played and the sacrifices that need to be made to win.”
The Bulls scored wins of 7-2 and 5-3 over the Jets, and received solid performances out of goalie Colin Cain, who started and won both games in between the pipes — a rarity for North Iowa over the years — and Dominic Skrelja, who tallied four goals and one assist in the series. Skrelja’s performance earned him the star of the week. He was the third Bull to win it in three weeks.
And, as has been the case for all of Sanden’s team, the depth is shining through as well early on as the Bulls are averaging more than six goals per game.
“When you get it from all four, some of your top guys get a little more room because if you’re fourth line is scoring then you have to pay attention to everybody and maybe you’re gaining some matchups there,” Sanden said.
The Bulls are back in action this weekend in a two-game series at St. Louis. After a week off, North Iowa will be back for its home opener Oct. 20 and 21 vs. the Wisconsin Whalers.