Blizzard hockey: Alexandria breaks throught against top team
The Alexandria Blizzard needed a win like this.
After beating up on the bottom tier of the NA3HL’s West Division, it was time to make a statement against one of the top two teams in the league. Alexandria had been competitive through seven games against North Iowa and Granite City but didn’t have a win to show for it heading into last Friday night’s game against North Iowa.
That was definitely on the minds of Alexandria players coming off a two week holiday break. They then went out and reversed those fortunes in a game that Alexandria never trailed in before holding on for a 4-3 win.
“It was just a huge confidence builder overall,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “Just to beat the first-place team and a team that has only three losses in regulation. Then the way it happened, we battled, we got the lead, and they’re very good offensively. We did a good job of keeping them on the perimeter. It was just a real good all-around team win.”
Alexandria was able to build an early lead behind the continued strong play of forward Ian Ecklund. The Proctor native has at least a point in each of the Blizzard’s last nine games. He finished with two of them against the Bulls as he found the back of the net for Alexandria’s first two goals of the night.
The second of those gave his team a 2-1 lead in the second period. Alexandria held a lead the rest of the way on a night when Ecklund added to his team-leading points (43) and goals scored (21) totals.
“He’s picked his game up,” Crouse said of a stretch where Ecklund has put up 20 points in nine games. “He’s bringing it every night. The good players do that.”
His teammates helped him out by adding two important goals. Ricky Seidel scored off assists from Danny Pelzer and Garrett Skinner to make it a 3-1 game in the second period. North Iowa cut it to a one-goal deficit late in the second, but a Karson Kuntz power-play goal at 5:43 in the third proved to be the game winner for Alexandria.
Chase Wilson made sure of that with a nice night in net. He stopped 33 shots to earn the win on a night when the Bulls outshot the Blizzard 36-24. Strong goaltending and an early lead is the blueprint this team was looking for coming off a two-week holiday break.
“They knew this was a big game after the break to get us rolling,” Crouse said. “Their attitudes, their work ethic in the weight room this week and in practice has definitely picked up. A win like this is huge for everything, the team, the coaching staff, the whole organization.”
The Blizzard will try to sustain that momentum as it welcomes in Minnesota for a game tonight, Friday, at the RCC. Alexandria will then go on the road for a game against Twin City this Sunday at noon.
NORTH IOWA 0 2 1 – 3
ALEXANDRIA 1 2 1 – 4
SHOTS – North Iowa – 11, 16, 9 – 36; Alexandria – 8, 9, 7 – 24
FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Ecklund (Hunter Bowlin, Garrett Skinner), 4:08
SECOND PERIOD – North Iowa – James Hughes (Eric Behrend), 2:04; Alexandria – Ecklund (Skinner, Seidel), 5:15; Alexandria – Seidel (Pelzer, Skinner), 8:06; North Iowa – Tony Paulson (Behrend, Chancie Hanson), 13:24
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Karson Kuntz (PPG) (Kyle Kuntz), 5:43; North Iowa – Timothy Santopoalo (James Hughes, Taylor Brown), 18:29
GOALTENDING – North Iowa – Aaron Davis – L, 20 saves, 24 shots; Alexandria – Wilson – W, 33 saves, 36 shots