Earlier this week the North American 3 Hockey League released its regular season schedule, detailing its entire seven-month season, which begins September 7.
The 47-game regular season will conclude March 10, followed by the Fraser Cup playoffs that culminate in the Championship Tournament in Chicago, Illinois, from March 27-31. This will be the ninth season of existence for the Tier III junior hockey league.
The schedule release includes all of the regular season contests for the North Iowa Bulls, who return for their eighth year of action in Mason City.
The Bulls will open their season on the night of September 15 on the road against the Peoria Mustangs, the first of five consecutive road games for North Iowa. Nine of the Bulls’ first 10 games will come away from North Iowa Arena, with the home opener coming on September 29 vs. the New Ulm Steel at 7:30 p.m.
Following the early-season time on the road, the Bulls will return to Mason City for a seven-game home stand stretching from October 19 to November 10. That streak will be the longest at home for the Bulls, though North Iowa will finish out the season with seven of their last eight games in their own building.
Last season, the Bulls were slayed in the postseason by the La Crosse Freeze. North Iowa will have to wait to avenge a season-ending overtime loss, as the Bulls do not play the club in the regular season.
If the Bulls do end up in a rematch of last year’s playoffs, they Freeze will be a new-look team. La Crosse management has changed the team name to the Coulee Region Chill, taking on the name of their once-affiliated NAHL Tier II junior squad that relocated to Chippewa Falls earlier in 2018.
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North Iowa will be unable to face-off with the defending NA3HL champions, the Metro Jets. The squad from Fraser, Michigan, announced in mid-April that they would be joining the United States Premier Hockey League for the 2018-2019 season.
The Bulls will, however, get the chance to play the Granite City Lumberjacks, who won the league title two seasons ago. North Iowa and Granite City played each other in the postseason for four consecutive years between 2012 and 2015 – the Bulls went 4-2 against the Lumberjacks during that span.
North Iowa and Granite City have combined to win six of the last seven NA3HL championships, with both teams claiming three titles apiece.
The two squads will face off six times in 2018-2019, with three games being played at each squad’s home rink. The Bulls will travel to the Armadillo Deck Sports Arena in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, twice in mid-October and once more in late-January. Then, they’ll welcome Granite City to the North Iowa Arena three times in a one-month stretch.
The three home games for the Bulls will occur February 1 and 2, and on March 1.
The regular season will conclude for North Iowa on March 9, when the Bulls host Peoria for the second game of a weekend series.