Blizzard hockey: Depth carries Alexandria through a tough stretch
Alexandria Blizzard players can take a deep breath.
The Blizzard wrapped up the toughest stretch of its schedule over the weekend that saw this team play eight games in 16 days. Alexandria finished that in fine fashion, winning 4-2 at Bismarck last Friday before coming home and beating Minot 3-2 on Saturday. That helped them finish with a 4-3-1 record over the eight-game stretch.
"It's a tough grind," head coach Doc DelCastillo said. "To have the energy on Saturday night and win a game at home, it's a testament to our depth, probably a testament to the conditioning that our guys do and what kind of shape they're in."
Alexandria got the win on Saturday by finding a way to finish in the third period again. The Blizzard trailed 2-1 against Minot heading into the final frame before Reid Sturos scored the equalizer just 22 seconds in. Almost 19 minutes passed before co-captain Tucker Coborn became the hero when he scored the game winner with just 43 seconds left.
DelCastillo said he saw a team that played tight against a Minot team with just five wins on the season. Alexandria outshot the Minotauros 36-19. The Blizzard connected on just enough of those chances to move to 8-0 against Minot this season.
"Between the second and third period, my message was I felt we were almost afraid to lose to Minot," DelCastillo said. "It was just like, relax guys...don't get so caught up in, 'Oh my gosh, we can't lose to Minot.' That's not a good way to play hockey. I think they took it to heart and had a good third period."
It was an important win for a team that got an emotional victory at Bismarck the night before. The Blizzard jumped on the Bobcats 2-0 after the first period behind goals from Hayden Trupp and Justin Moody. Alexandria added goals from Seth Ronsberg and Charlie Aus in the second to take complete control of the game.
"That's the first time this year that we've really had a substantial lead against them," DelCastillo said. "It's good to see. You need confidence in their building, which now we know we're capable of winning there. [Goaltender] Jacob [Meyers] made some big saves when we needed to, and we capitalized on opportunities."
Meyers got his 23rd win of the season with 35 saves on the night. He lowered his goals' against average to 2.19 and his save percentage to .926. Meyers' play has made it almost impossible to take him out of net during certain stretches this season.
That has made game experience hard to come by for backup goaltender Jameson Shortreed. The Emo, Ontario native went more than a month between game action from mid-December to January 20. Lately, he has seen those opportunities increase as DelCastillo has put him in net in four games since a 4-3 loss in Bismarck on January 29.
Shortreed bounced back from giving up six goals against Austin on February 4 to pick up the win over Minot. He turned aside 17 shots that night to improve his record to 6-4-2 overall.
"For one, he's playing well," DelCastillo said when asked was has led to Shortreed's increased minutes. "He played well in Bismarck two weeks ago and played good against Minot last weekend. He's won some games for us so when people earn ice time, it's easy to put them out there. We feel very comfortable with Jameson in net."
Whoever is in goal this weekend will have to be on their game as Alexandria gets set to play a home-and-home with the Bobcats. The Blizzard will welcome them in tonight, Friday, before traveling to Bismarck to wrap up the weekend tomorrow.
The top two teams in the Central Division have met four times since January 29 but never on back-to-back nights on the same weekend. Now Alexandria will have a chance to place its attention squarely on the team it's chasing in the standings.
"The number one thing that happens when we play them, regardless of the final score, is we become a better team," DelCastillo said. "If you make mistakes or don't bring your best effort, they're going to exploit it...we have to play at our top level to be successful against them, and we take that as a challenge."
MINOT 1 1 0 - 2
ALEXANDRIA 1 0 2 - 3
SHOTS - Minot - 8, 6, 5 - 19; Alexandria - 13, 10, 13 - 36; Power plays - Minot - 1-3; Alexandria - 1-4
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Jordan Krebsbach (PP) (Michael Mooney, Tucker Coborn), 3:20; Minot - Josh Twietmeyer (Brian Farkas, Jadin Martin), 17:12
SECOND PERIOD - Minot - Tim Donahue (PP) (Jack McFarlane, Carl Krieger), 7:22
THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - Reid Sturos (Hayden Trupp, Matt Youso), 0:22; Alexandria - Tucker Coborn (Seth Ronsberg, Thomas Williams), 19:17
GOALTENDING - Minot - Jake Hebda - L, 33 saves, 36 shots; Alexandria - Jameson Shortreed - W, 17 saves, 19 shots
ALEXANDRIA 2 2 0 - 4
BISMARCK 0 1 1 - 2
SHOTS - Alexandria - 11, 14, 8 - 33; Bismarck - 14, 10, 13 - 37; Power plays - Alexandria - 0-2; Bismarck - 0-6
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Hayden Trupp (Reid Sturos, Nick D'Avolio), 8:22; Alexandria - Justin Moody (Vadim Gyesbreghs, Aidan Cavallini), 10:16
SECOND PERIOD - Bismarck - Francis DeAugustine (Adam Knochenmus, Grant Mindt), 13:22; Alexandria - Seth Ronsberg (Justin Moody, Aidan Cavallini), 14:05; Alexandria - Charlie Aus (Justin Moody, Vadim Gyesbreghs), 19:04
THIRD PERIOD - Bismarck - Tyler Richter (Castan Sommer, Bryce Anderson), 5:28
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - W, 35 saves, 37 shots; Bismarck - Aaron Nelson - L, 21 saves, 25 shots
BISMARCK 0 1 1 - 2
ALEXANDRIA 0 0 0 - 0
SHOTS - Bismarck - 8, 8, 11 - 27; Alexandria - 12, 4, 8 - 24; Power plays - Bismarck - 0-3; Alexandria - 0-3
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - No scoring
SECOND PERIOD - Bismarck - Ryan Callahan (John Furgele, Shane Omdahl), 14:09
THIRD PERIOD - Bismarck - Tyler Richter (empty net), unassisted, 19:58
GOALTENDING - Bismarck - Tommy Burke - W, 24 saves, 24 shots; Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - L, 25 saves, 26 shots