St. Louis Jr. Blues (5-5-1, 11 pts) vs. Sheridan Hawks (12-1-0, 24 pts) and North Iowa Bulls (11-3-0, 22 pts)
VENUE: Multipurpose Arena, Mason City, Iowa
GAME DATES AND TIMES: vs. Sheridan December 11 at 12 noon and December 12 at 12 noon, vs North Iowa December 11 at 7:30pm and December 13 at 12 noon (all times Central)
WHERE TO FOLLOW: All Jr. Blues games are streamed live and in high definition on www.hockeytv.com (subscription required). Follow our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds for live updates.
THE RECAP: In a series played at the Owens Center in Peoria due to a lack of suitable ice in St. Louis, the Jr. Blues split with the Oregon Tradesmen, dropping a 5-2 decision Friday night before winning 4-2 on Saturday afternoon. Goaltender Owen Carlson picked up Bauer/NA3HL Central Division Star of the Week honors for his performance between the pipes: he stopped all 18 shots he faced making a relief appearance on Friday before turning aside 32 of 34 Tradesmen shots Saturday. Forward Vinny Servizzi was honored as an Honorable Mention selection on the back of his three goals scored in the series.
ARE YOU BEING SERV’D?: After finishing his first junior hockey game on October 31 with no points, two penalty minutes, and a -1 rating, the former Chaminade Collegiate Prep standout Servizzi has scored at least one goal in his last four matches in a Jr. Blues uniform. It’s the longest goal streak to start a Jr. Blues career since the 2015-16 season, where Zach Mitchell found the back of the net in ten consecutive games before receiving an NAHL callup to Brookings.
A CHRISTMAS GET-TOGETHER: With their West Division schedule put on hold due to a statewide shutdown of ice rinks in Minnesota, the North Iowa Bulls have gotten creative to keep themselves on the ice and in game shape. The Jr. Blues, who were originally scheduled to play Wausau this weekend but had those fixtures postponed, will join Sheridan (who were initially idle this weekend) and the hosts in an exhibition series dubbed the Bulls Holiday Classic. Each team will play each other twice, with the Saturday matinee against Sheridan played in a showcase format—two 25-minute halves instead of three 20-minute periods
SCOUTING THE BULLS: North Iowa continues to be one of the class teams of the NA3HL and had won six out of their last seven games before the West Division season was paused. Returning forward Cal Nauss leads all scorers with 16 points (3 G, 13 A) while fellow second-year man Sota Isogai and rookie Garrett Freeman both have recorded eight goals. Isogai is not the only Japanese native on this year’s Bulls team (he is joined by Tokyo-born forward Shota Kaneko), nor is he the club’s most notable import from the Land of the Rising Sun: former Bulls standout Kohei Sato (2014-16) is entering his senior year at New Hampshire and has been capped six times by the Japanese national team. Three-year veteran Evan Babekuhl has once again been a steady hand in goal, with a 7-2-0 record, 2.31 goals-against average, and a .915 save percentage. The Jr. Blues and Bulls met four times last season, with the Iowans sweeping the series.
SCOUTING THE HAWKS: Sheridan enters the weekend riding an eleven-game win streak and currently lie one point adrift of Great Falls atop the Frontier Division, albeit with three games in hand. They boast the current NA3HL points leader in Jacob Cummings: the Alaska native has scored 15 goals and added 33 helpers in 13 games played, which averages out to 3.69 points per game. Four other Hawks have scored 20 or more points, including three returners in Blake Billings, Justin Schwartzmiller, and Logan Syrup. Australian junior international James Downie has returned for his second season in Wyoming, and his statistics have been nothing short of stunning: a 6-0-0 record, 0.83 GAA, .962 save percentage, and four shutouts. It should be noted that Downie started in goal last year when coach Andy Scheib’s men met the Jr. Blues at the NA3HL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota: he lasted just 15:10, letting in three goals on 11 shots before being pulled in what ended up a 5-2 win for St. Louis.
JUNIOR NOTES: The Jr. Blues are not the first team from St. Louis to make the trek up to Mason City to play the Bulls in an exhibition game, as last week Carshield AAA’s 18U team put up a valiant effort despite being on the wrong end of a 9-1 scoreline….Watch the Jr. Blues social media pages for information on games that will be rescheduled in the new year….This is not Sheridan’s first trip to Mason City, as they held a joint main/tryout camp with the Bulls back in August….On behalf of the entire Jr. Blues team, coaching staff, support staff, and family, we wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and most importantly safe holiday season.