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The Blizzard’s Joe Anderson brings the puck up the ice during the first period on Friday night. Anderson had three goals and seven points over the weekend in an Alexandria sweep against the Wisconsin Whalers. Anderson came to Alexandria earlier this month after playing seven games in the North American Hockey League with Brookings this season. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)

Blizzard hockey: Alex regroups after tough home opener

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The Alexandria Blizzard bounced back from a loss in its home opener last Saturday with two wins this past weekend over Wisconsin at the Runestone Community Center.

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The Blizzard picked up a 6-4 win Friday and a 5-3 win Saturday against the Whalers, who play in the NA3HL’s Central Division. Head coach Jeff Crouse said the team focused on fixing its mistakes after losing 8-1 in the first home game against Granite City.

“We watched film and cleaned up some things defensively and got our feet moving,” Crouse said after Friday’s 6-4 win. “We were able to get on the scoreboard right away and get the crowd into it, which was huge.”

Joe Anderson led the scoring for the Blizzard on the weekend with three goals. Mick Dhein and Ian Ecklund each also scored two goals in the series. With a 6-2 mark on the season, Crouse said he was happy with their record after playing their first five games on the road.

“We’ll take it where it’s at. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Crouse said. “We’re happy anytime you’re 5-2 and you are above .500 and winning hockey games.”

Some of the Blizzard players felt they disappointed the fans after their home opener. But they felt much better after skating to a sweep against Wisconsin.

“We knew we disappointed the fans and we knew we had to come out and give them a show,” Ecklund said. “We played hard for three periods and I think we put on a pretty good show tonight.”

Drake Hunter, who scored a goal Friday night and is currently leading the team with seven goals, said the team’s physical play helped them pick up a win on Friday night.

“We played a lot more physical, and stayed out of the box a little bit more, besides at the end there,” he said. “Overall, we played way more physical and shot the puck a lot more.”

Ecklund said the players were satisfied with their early 6-2 record this season.

“We always want to win more games, but so far we’re pretty satisfied,” Ecklund said.

The Blizzard goaltenders’ play in the net was one area Crouse pointed to as a positive so far this season. The first line of Ecklund, Anderson and Aaron Ryback each picked up multiple points in Friday’s game, and they have helped the Blizzard take control of games this season.

“That’s why they’re my first line,” Crouse said. “When they come out, they can put up three or four points apiece.”

Friday’s game between the two teams proved to be the most physical in the series, with 129 penalty minutes assessed to Alexandria and 80 minutes to Wisconsin. Most of those penalties came in the third period, when 10 game-misconduct penalties were assessed following a five-on-five brawl between both teams.

Crouse felt that the officials did not do a very good job of policing the physical play between the two teams in the game.

“The big thing was that some players were getting into it, and I didn’t think the ref did a very good job of controlling the game,” Crouse said. “The players get frustrated, coaches get frustrated, and then stuff like that happens.”

Although it was unfortunate that the fight escalated to all the players on the ice at the time, Crouse was happy with the emotion the Blizzard players showed in the game.

“It’s a good thing that the guys showed some emotion and they got after it like that,” he said. “Do you want to see a five-on-five like that? No, but it is part of the game. Fans do come here for entertainment, and the guys were just showing their emotion.”

The Blizzard will play one home game this weekend against the Minnesota Flying Aces on Friday. On Saturday they travel to Sauk Rapids to play Granite City.

GAME STATISTICS

WISCONSIN 2 0 1 – 3

ALEXANDRIA 3 0 2 – 5

SHOTS – WISCONSIN 8 10 10 – 28; ALEXANDRIA – 15 12 7 – 34

SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Tyler Sworsky (Ethan Luck, Tre Kautzman); Ian Ecklund (Joe Anderson, Aaron Ryback; Nate Mettenburg (PP) (Anderson, Zach Kihle); Nate Mettenburg (PP) (Anderson, Kihle); Wisconsin – D.J. Mussey (Dan Addie, Easton Halbert); Adam Alcott (Easton Halbert, Clayton Janecke)

SECOND PERIOD – (No scoring)

THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Anderson (PP) (Ecklund, Kihle); Mick Dhein (Bryce Mitzel, Jody Randall); Wisconsin – Mitch Riese (PP) (Easton Halbert, Connor Hyde)

GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Evan Bisek – W, 25 saves on 28 shots; Wisconsin – Michal Marcinek – L, 29 saves on 34 shots

WISCONSIN 1 1 2 – 4

ALEXANDRIA 3 1 2 – 6

SHOTS – Wisconsin – 8 12 9 – 29; Alexandria – 18 11 11 – 40

SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Dhein (Mitzel, Randall); Wisconsin – Axsel Campbell (Chad Frost, Kaleb Morley); Alexandria – Ryback (Anderson, Ecklund); Ecklund (SH) (Anderson, Gavin Mindt)

SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Anderson (SH) (Ecklund, Trent Olson); Wisconsin – Dan Addie (PP) (Mussey, Frost)

THIRD PERIOD – Wisconsin – Frost (Tim Travis); Alexandria – Anderson (Ryback, Ecklund); Drake Hunter (Danny Pelzer, Tom Schmidt); Wisconsin – Addie (PP) (Brett Gates)

GOALTENDING – Tanner Elmore – W, 3 goals allowed; Bisek – 1 goal allowed

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Blaze Fugina
Blaze Fugina is a sports reporter at the Echo Press. Before working in Alexandria, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. He previously worked as the community editor of the Mound Laker for more than a year. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.
(320) 763-1230
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