Blizzard hockey: Alex closing in on second seed
The Alexandria Blizzard is only four points back of Granite City for the second seed in the West Division after sweeping two games this past weekend.
Alexandria made easy work of Breezy Point in a 5-0 game this past Saturday after edging Twin City behind a wild third period on Friday. That left the team just four points back of Granite City with three weekends left in the regular season.
“That’s definitely our goal, and I think we’ve put pressure on them too,” head coach Jeff Crouse said of earning the number two seed. “I think they’re saying, ‘Hey, Alexandria is right behind us.’ and they’ve got North Iowa this weekend Friday and Saturday. It’s going to be a big test. Hopefully we can keep taking care of business, but our goal is definitely to hopefully get that two seed.”
The Blizzard knows there isn’t much room for error, and Alexandria didn’t slip up this past weekend. Garrett Skinner had two power-play goals and Ian Ecklund had three assists to help Alexandria get past Breezy Point.
The Blizzard opened things up with four goals in the second period as Joe Anderson, Ethan Luck and Aaron Ryback added goals to Skinners’ power play goal at 6:05.
Friday night’s game against Twin City proved to be much closer as the Steel took a 3-1 lead into the third period. The Blizzard erupted from there, scoring five goals to secure a 6-4 win over the team that sits right behind them in the West Division.
“We had some chances early,” Crouse said. “Joe Anderson missed two breakaways, and it was kind of ho hum. I think we just regrouped and came out storming to start the third. Once we got one, the floodgates opened up a little bit.”
Tom Schmidt and Mick Dhein each took advantage of a power play with goals in the final frame. Ecklund added two goals at even strength and Mitch Krafcheck had another.
The two wins gave Alexandria 56 points and a 25-15 record. Granite City has 60 points but has played three fewer games. The Lumberjacks have eight games left, including three against North Iowa, two against Central Division leader Peoria and one each against Alexandria, Breezy Point and Twin City.
Alexandria has five games left, starting with a home contest against Breezy Point tonight, Friday. The Blizzard will be on the road at Minnesota on Sunday before playing a game at North Iowa on March 2.
“They have a much tougher schedule,” Crouse said of Granite City. “We’ve kind of put behind who we’re playing and are more focused on just playing our best hockey heading into the playoffs.”
TOP PROSPECTS TOURNAMENT Ecklund, Skinner and Anderson were all competing for the West Division in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament in Troy, Michigan earlier this week.
The West Division dominated the tournament, going 3-0 and outscoring their opponents 28-3 in the process. Anderson finished with four goals and two assists. Skinner had two goals and two assists and Ecklund had six assists.
Blizzard forward Bo Gronseth also played on the South Division team. He had a shorthanded goal in a 6-4 loss for the South on Tuesday.
“I think it just goes to show how good our division is,” Crouse said of the West. “They won 11-1 and 9-1…I expected our guys to go down there and put up points. It’s good to see those individual accomplishments so they can get some more looks for next year.”