The Blizzard knew something had to change after suffering its sixth straight loss to Coulee Region in a 6-2 game at home last Friday night.
Alexandria head coach Doc DelCastillo was not happy with a defense that allowed the Chill too many quality scoring opportunities. One night later, the Blizzard came out with a renewed energy on defense that was the biggest difference in a 4-1 win for Alexandria.
"We played a very good game on Saturday," DelCastillo said. "Jacob Meyers played very well in net, and our defensive commitment from our team that night was exactly what we needed. We didn't give up a whole lot of opportunities. Our goaltending was good when we needed it, we stayed out of the box and we had timely goals."
Meyers gave his team exactly what it needed after the Blizzard struggled the night before. He turned aside 29 of the 30 shots he faced. The only goal Coulee Region got off him came 15 minutes into the first period.
Alexandria rebounded from that with four unanswered goals. Steve Zierke tied things up at one apiece with just more than a minute left in the second period.
The Chill had made a habit of putting away close games between these two teams in the past. This time, the Blizzard made the necessary plays to take the lead and eventually pull away late.
Nardo Nagtzaam got it started early in the third. He connected off an assist from Alex Altenbernd a little more than three minutes in to give Alexandria the momentum. Thomas Williams and Jordan Nelson added to that lead in the final six minutes of the game to finish off the Chill.
"It was very nice," DelCastillo said of watching his team make the necessary plays down the stretch. "We've been in good, close games with them, especially down there, where they have found ways to win close hockey games. So it was a little bit of a relief after the game...I don't think it was our offense that won that game. Our defense won that game, just playing very good defense and being patient and [burying] the opportunities we had."
The Blizzard had its chances the night before. Alexandria peppered the net, outshooting Coulee Region 49-38. That aggressiveness on offense turned into a detriment for the Blizzard at times as the Chill took advantage of some good opportunities on the other end.
"I was very disappointed on Friday night," DelCastillo said. "I thought we played OK offensively. I just didn't think we had the defensive commitment that we needed to be real successful."
The two teams were tied at two apiece before Coulee Region ended the period with all the momentum. Alexandria outshot the Chill 20-15 in the middle frame, but Coulee was able to connect on three goals. The final one came with just 32 seconds left in the period and gave Coulee a 4-2 lead heading into intermission.
"It was a frustrating second period because we had a lot of good scoring opportunities and didn't capitalize," DelCastillo said. "There were letdowns by certain guys, and it's frustrating when you're peppering and outplaying them and you don't score. Then they come down and get a goal that they probably shouldn't have."
The Blizzard was never able to get any closer. Coulee Region finished what it started with two more goals in the final frame.
The split left Alexandria with a 13-13-4 record. The Blizzard hopes the win on Saturday can get this team moving forward as it enters a stretch of games against Central Division leaders Bismarck and Owatonna.
"Anyone who's seen these games against Coulee Region would say that we haven't been dominated or anything," DelCastillo said. "It's nice when the guys can be rewarded for playing a good game. Hopefully we can build off it."
ALEXANDRIA 0 1 3 - 4
COULEE REGION 1 0 0 - 1
SHOTS - Alexandria - 11, 14, 10 - 35; Coulee Region - 6, 12, 12 - 30
SCORING SUMMARY - FIRST PERIOD - Coulee Region - Connor Gaarder (PPG) (David Ripple, Ben Gislason), 15:01
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Steve Zierke (Michael Pieper), 18:55
THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - Nardo Nagtzaam (Alex Altenbernd), 3:12; Alexandria - Thomas Williams (Brent Bain, Zierke), 14:31; Alexandria - Jordan Nelson (Josh Gaughan, Craig Lindegard), 17:57
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - W, 29 saves, 30 shots faced; Coulee Region - Paul Moberg - 31 saves, 35 shots faced
PENALTIES - Alexandria - eight minutes on four infractions; Coulee Region - eight minutes on four infractions
COULEE REGION 1 3 2 - 6
ALEXANDRIA 1 1 0 - 2
SHOTS - Coulee Region - 15, 15, 8 - 38; Alexandria - 14, 20, 15 - 49
SCORING SUMMARY - FIRST PERIOD - Coulee Region - Lucas Dillon (David Ripple), 3:35; Alexandria - Zierke (SH) (Mike Krieg, Thomas Williams), 18:31
SECOND PERIOD - Coulee Region - Ben Jaremko (Eric Drapluk), 3:58; Alexandria - Bain (PPG) (Michael Pieper, Zierke), 14:42; Coulee Region - Jaremko (James Hughes, Mike McDonald), 16:34; Coulee Region - Jake Useldinger (Zac Frischmon, Scott Bell), 19:28
THIRD PERIOD - Coulee Region - Chris Hughes (Eric Drapluk), 8:02; Coulee Region - Connor Gaarder (PPG) (David Ripple, Matt Blomquist), 17:46
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jake Williams - L, 32 saves, 38 shots faced; Coulee Region - Paul Moberg - 47 saves, 49 shots faced
PENALTIES - Alexandria - 20 minutes on six infractions; 16 minutes on eight infractions