Blizzard hockey: Alexandria picks up six points over the weekend
The goal for the Alexandria Blizzard all season has been to be playing its best hockey at the end of the year and whether or not that results in a regular season division title is secondary.
Alexandria is well on its way to accomplishing that goal after another six-point week against teams in front of it in the Central Division. As a result, the Blizzard has played itself right back into that division race with 17 games left on the schedule.
Alexandria is in fourth place but sits just seven points behind first-place Owatonna. The Blizzard beat the Express 3-2 in overtime last Wednesday before stealing two close games in Bismarck over the weekend.
Alexandria's winning streak over the Bobcats moved to six games with the 2-1 and 5-4 victories last Friday and Saturday night. The wins pushed the Blizzard to 7-2 against its Central Division rivals on the season.
"I think we're just continuing to play the way we have been in the last three or four weeks," head coach Doc DelCastillo said. "I think our team has really bought into the defense-first concept, and we are having a lot of success."
That defense was on full display in the weekend finale in Bismarck. Alexandria had a 2-0 lead entering the third period after Jordan Nelson and Steve Zierke scored in the middle frame.
The Blizzard then spent the entire third period trying to fend off a Bobcats' rally. The Blizzard spent much of that time killing power plays because of four penalties in the period. Bismarck outshot Alexandria 12-1 in the final frame and finally cut its deficit in half when Daniel Zawacki converted on a power play a little more than seven minutes in.
Blizzard goaltender Jacob Meyers and the Alexandria defense held up the rest of the way. Meyers got his opportunity in net over the weekend with Jake Williams being a little beat up. Meyers took advantage of the opportunity, getting both wins over Bismarck, and turning aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced on Saturday. He and the Alexandria defense killed six of the seven power plays on the night.
"Very impressive," DelCastillo said of his goalie. "It was a frustrating third period. It just seemed like the penalties were so spread out that they were happening every two to three minutes. You deal with the two-minute penalty and it usually takes you two or three shifts to get back on track as far as what you're doing offensively...it was a credit to our penalty kill and a credit to Jacob that we found a way to only give up one goal."
Alexandria was able to open things up in the third period the night before. Jordan Nelson scored the first two goals of the period to break what was a 2-2 tie after two. Nardo Nagtzaam then added another off an assist from Alex Altenbernd near the 11-minute mark.
That goal proved to be the game winner after a late charge by Bismarck. Matthew Gates added two late goals, but the Bobcats could not get the tying goal in the final minutes.
That trend of one-goal games started with an overtime win against Owatonna last Wednesday night. Michael Pieper and Tucker Coborn each scored in regulation to help Alexandria skate to a 2-2 tie after regulation.
It did not take long for the Blizzard to strike in the extra frame. Nagtzaam sent his team home a winner just 27 seconds in on a power-play goal that added to his team-leading 53 points on the season.
With the three wins, Alexandria looks to be well on its way to accomplishing its goal of playing its best hockey down the stretch. The Blizzard has won eight of its last 10 games and gotten back in the division race in the process. That is just icing on the cake for a team that has its sights set on making some noise come playoff time.
"It's nice when you get the results that you want," DelCastillo said. "We know we're putting ourselves in a situation where we're within striking distance of some of these teams, but that's really not the focus for us. Like I've said all along, it's about getting better, becoming a better team and focusing on playing very well at the right time of the season."
ALEXANDRIA 0 2 0 - 2
BISMARCK 0 0 1 - 1
SHOTS - Alexandria - 9, 8, 1 - 18; Bismarck - 9, 8, 12 - 29
SCORING SUMMARY - FIRST PERIOD - No scoring
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Jordan Nelson (Tucker Coborn), 4:28; Alexandria - Steve Zierke (Thomas Williams, Brent Bain), 9:19
THIRD PERIOD - Bismarck - Daniel Zawacki (PPG) (Daniel Ray, Matthew Gates), 7:16
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - W, 28 saves, 29 shots faced; Bismarck - Ryan Faragher - L, 16 saves, 18 shots faced
PENALTIES - Alexandria - 19 minutes on eight infractions; Bismarck - 15 minutes on six infractions
ALEXANDRIA 0 2 3 - 5
BISMARCK 0 2 2 - 4
SHOTS - Alexandria - 12, 10, 6 - 28; Bismarck - 6, 5, 8 - 19
SCORING SUMMARY - FIRST PERIOD - No scoring
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Brent Bain (Thomas Williams), 2:23; Bismarck - Nikolaj Rosenthal (Daniel Zawacki, Daniel Kovar), 2:51; Alexandria - Alex Altenbernd (SH) (Steve Zierke), 6:25; Bismarck - Rosenthal (PP) (Tom Rizzardo, Matthew Gates), 7:03
THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - Nelson (SH) (Zierke), 3:24; Alexandria - Nelson (Coborn), 9:49; Alexandria - Nardo Nagtzaam (Altenbernd), 10:52; Bismarck - Gates (PPG) (Rosenthal, Tim Rizzardo), 14:55; Bismarck - Gates (Daniel Zawacki), 17:27
GOALTENDING - Meyers - W, 15 saves, 19 shots faced; Faragher - L, 23 saves, 28 shots faced
PENALTIES - Alexandria - 11 minutes on four infractions; Bismarck - 10 minutes on five infractions
OWATONNA 0 1 1 0 - 2
ALEXANDRIA 1 0 1 1 - 3
SHOTS - Owatonna - 9, 10, 4, 0 - 23; Alexandria - 11, 13, 13, 1 - 38
SCORING SUMMARY - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Michael Pieper (Nagtzaam, Vadim Gyesbreghs), 4:29
SECOND PERIOD - Owatonna - Chris Bournazos (PPG) (Marian Fiala, Charles Williams), 8:51
THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - Tucker Coborn (SH) (Nelson, Joe Rubbelke), 0:34; Owatonna - Lawrence Cornellier (Andy Singerhouse), 2:20
OVERTIME - Nagtzaam (PPG) (Mike Krieg, Pieper), 0:27
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jake Williams - W, 21 saves, 23 shots faced; Owatonna - Charles Williams - L, 35 saves, 38 shots faced
PENALTIES - Owatonna - four minutes on two infractions; Alexandria - eight minutes on four infractions