Blizzard go 2-1 on road trip
Mick Dhein led the Blizzard with five points during a 2-1 road trip last weekend in Iowa and Wisconsin.
Alexandria swept a two-game series against the Wisconsin Whalers on Friday and Saturday, but dropped a 5-2 game on Sunday evening in North Iowa.
In Friday’s game, Dhein, Jody Randall and Aaron Ryback all scored while goaltender Tanner Elmore stopped 41 shots to give Alexandria a 3-2 win.
The Blizzard found itself in a shootout Saturday, producing just enough firepower to finish with a 7-6 win in overtime. Ian Ecklund scored twice, and Tom Schmidt, Bo Gronseth, Aammir Freese, Aaron Ryback and Drake Hunter also tallied goals for Alexandria. The Blizzard were up 6-5 in the third period but the Whalers scored a game-tying goal with just three seconds left to force overtime. Ecklund broke the tie just 52 seconds into the overtime period for the win.
Blizzard head coach Jeff Crouse said the team did not play its best games this season in Madison but was still able to earn two wins in the series.
“I thought the big thing is we played good enough to win,” Crouse said. “I don’t think we were on top of our game 100 percent.”
It was a different story Sunday as North Iowa pulled away in the second period for a 5-2 win. Crouse was still happy with the effort he saw from the Blizzard players despite the loss.
“Actually, it was probably the best game we played in the weekend,” he said. “I thought we played better on Sunday than we did Friday and Saturday.”
The Blizzard was only down 3-2 midway through the second period against North Iowa after Dhein scored twice. But two lapses by the Blizzard defense allowed North Iowa to score twice on breakaways and put the game out of reach.
Crouse said the game could have been very different if Alexandria had tightened up on defense during the second half of the game.
“We had two lapses where the defenseman kind of fell asleep,” he said. “We gave up two breakaway goals and, looking at that, ended up being the difference.”
The Blizzard was also tested by traveling on one of the longest road trips of the season. The team first traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to play in the weekend’s first two games. After Saturday’s game the team hopped back on the bus for an overnight trip to Mason City, Iowa for Sunday’s game.
Crouse said on long road trips the most important thing for teams to do is take care of themselves by getting enough sleep, eating the right foods and staying hydrated. North Iowa also was on the road for games over the weekend, so he felt neither team had an advantage due to travel.
“It can get to you a little bit mentally,” Crouse said. “But North Iowa was in the Twin Cities last weekend and they had to drive back in the middle of the night, too, on Sunday morning. When you look at it, going into Sunday I thought it was as even of a playing field as there could be.”
The two games in Wisconsin over the weekend were also the final two against NA3HL teams outside the West Division. Last year the Blizzard had the best record among division teams after the holiday break. This year Crouse hopes to repeat that streak and get back into one of the West Division’s top two spots and host the opening round of the playoffs.
“Last year we were the best team in the division after the break,” he said. “We’re hoping to do the same thing again this year.”
ALEXANDRIA – 1 2 0 – 3
WISCONSIN – 1 0 1 – 2
ALEXANDRIA SCORING – Zach Kihle – 1 assist; Garrett Skinner – 1 assist; Mick Dhein – 1 goal; Aammir Freese – 1 assist; Jody Randall – 1 goal; Aaron Ryback – 1 goal
GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Tanner Elmore – W, 41 saves on 43 shots; Wisconsin – Connor Fissel – L, 43 saves on 46 shots
ALEXANDRIA – 2 2 2 1 – 7
WISCONSIN – 2 2 2 0 – 6
ALEXANDRIA SCORING – Ian Ecklund – 2 goals, 1 assist; Brandon Wedoff – 1 assist; Skinner – 1 assist; Tom Schmidt – 1 goal, 1 assist; Bo Gronseth – 1 goal, 1 assist; Dhein – 2 assists; Freese – 1 goal; Randall – 1 assist; Ethan Luck – 2 assists; Ryback – 1 goal; Drake Hunter – 1 goal
GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Patrick Anderson – W, 50 saves on 56 shots; Wisconsin – Connor Fissel – L, 44 saves on 51 shots
ALEXANDRIA – 1 1 0 – 2
NORTH IOWA – 1 3 1 – 5
ALEXANDRIA SCORING – Dhein – 2 goals; Gavin Mindt – 1 assist; Jake Maxson – 1 assist; Joe Anderson – 1 assist
GOALTENDING – NORTH IOWA – Chris Amsden – W, 28 saves on 30 shots; Elmore – L, 23 saves on 28 shots