Blizzard hockey: Pushing toward the playoffs
With just seven games remaining, the Alexandria Blizzard hopes to wrap up the regular season schedule by playing its best hockey of the year.
With a 5-4 home win against Twin City on Friday and a 5-3 victory in Breezy Point on Saturday afternoon, the Blizzard improved its overall season record to 26-15-0. The wins also helped the Blizzard put a 10-point cushion up in the NA3HL West Division between it and fourth-place Twin City. Alexandria also now trails second-place Granite City by only six points.
The Blizzard hopes it can keep winning over these final regular season games to build a streak heading into the playoffs.
“We want to win every game from here on out,” Alexandria forward Joe Anderson said. “That’s the plan.”
Anderson helped push the Blizzard to a two-win weekend by scoring one goal on Friday and three on Saturday. Bo Gronseth also scored a goal in both games over the weekend. Goaltenders Evan Bisek and Tanner Elmore both picked up wins in goal.
The Blizzard benefited from its depth on offense against both Twin City and Breezy Point. Five different players scored goals in Friday’s win over Twin City, and three players also contributed to the scoring on Saturday. Both games were also played without forward Ian Ecklund, who was serving a suspension.
“It’s nice seeing depth in the lineup, getting points from everyone,” Gronseth said. “It helps contribute to wins.”
The Blizzard’s seven remaining games are all against teams in the West Division. Two of those final three games are also against the division’s first and second place teams, which could be important to gain momentum heading into the playoffs.
“We’ve got Granite City and North Iowa right at the end,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “I want to be playing tip-top hockey when we play them before the playoffs, hopefully build some confidence and go from there.”
The Blizzard has four representatives who will play in the NA3HL Top Prospects Tournament on February 17 through 19.
The Top Prospects Tournament is played every year with four teams of the top players from the four divisions of the NA3HL. Four Alexandria players have been selected to two of the tournament’s teams. Garrett Skinner, Anderson and Ian Ecklund will be playing on the West Division’s team, and Gronseth was selected to play for the South Division’s team.
One benefit for the tournament’s players is the chance to play in front of scouts from different levels of hockey.
“Exposure to other teams, colleges, it’s kind of like an all-star type of deal, too,” Crouse said. “They earned their right to get there.”
The tournament will be played at the Troy Sports Center in Troy, Michigan.
ALEXANDRIA 3 1 1 – 5
BREEZY POINT 0 3 0 – 3
SHOTS – ALEXANDRIA – (12, 8, 6) – 26; BREEZY POINT – (6, 12, 9) – 27
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – ALEXANDRIA – Jody Randall (Mick Dhein, Drake Hunter), 2:20; Joe Anderson (Garrett Skinner), 3:48; Anderson, 15:16
SECOND PERIOD – BREEZY POINT – Crosby Steen (Benji Smieja, Blake Neumann), 0:29; ALEXANDRIA – Anderson (Trent Olson, Bo Gronseth), 4:24; BREEZY POINT – Blake Neumann (PP) (Steen, Bo Borowski), 12:53; Chris Hjorth (PP) (Blair Seitz, Joe Laskero), 14:02
THIRD PERIOD – ALEXANDRIA – Gronseth, 5:00
GOALTENDING – ALEXANDRIA – Tanner Elmore – W, 24 saves on 27 shots; BREEZY POINT – Joey Bergquist – L, 21 saves on 26 shots
TWIN CITY – 0 2 2 – 4
ALEXANDRIA 2 2 1 – 5
SHOTS – TWIN CITY – (8, 9, 6) – 23; ALEXANDRIA – (11, 14, 6) – 31
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – ALEXANDRIA – Gronseth (Anderson, Skinner), 6:32; Anderson (Gronseth, Skinner), 10:28
SECOND PERIOD – ALEXANDRIA – Tom Schmidt (SH) (Danny Pelzer, Gavin Mindt), 2:37; TWIN CITY – Ben Ihrie (Tanner Duffney, Isaac Hale), 4:56; ALEXANDRIA – Pelzer (Aaron Ryback, Mindt), 6:31; TWIN CITY – Mathias Ahman (PP) (Jace Childs, Calvin Miska), 13:48
THIRD PERIOD – ALEXANDRIA – Nate Mettenburg (PP) (Skinner, Ryback), 3:01; TWIN CITY –Ahman (PP) (Childs, Sam Basich), 14:26; Childs (EXTRA ATTACKER) (Jon Plaszcz, Ahman), 19:21