Blizzard Hockey: Bobcats, Blizzard defend home ice
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria and Bismarck have gotten to know each other quite well over the past month.
The two Central Division rivals have played each other seven times since January 21. During that time, Alexandria has proven it can play with a team that looked like it might be in another league from every team in the division through the first half of the season.
The Bobcats are still comfortably in first place with 77 points and a 38-9-1 record. The Blizzard (30-14-3, 63 points) may not catch them in the regular season, but if nothing else, this team has proven that it has no fear going against the Bobcats after a weekend split helped Alexandria finish with a 3-3-1 record during its last seven games against them.
“With both teams, you just never know because they’re both such good hockey teams,” head coach Doc DelCastillo said after his team lost 6-3 last Saturday and won 5-1 the night before. “It was nice on Friday. I thought we played well. Then on Saturday it was a good hockey game, but things happened that will not help you win games against a team like Bismarck.”
The Bobcats had lost two straight to Alexandria before deciding they had had enough on Saturday. They dominated the second period that night, outshooting Alexandria 23-9 to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead going into the second intermission.
That momentum carried over into the third. Bismarck came alive in the final frame, scoring three straight goals to blow the game open. Alexandria’s Nick D’Avolio stopped that run with a goal at 10:18. Craig Lindegard then added one for the Blizzard with four minutes left to play, but it wasn’t enough to send Alexandria home with a sweep.
“I think after the first period, we were up and they got a little upset,” DelCastillo said. “We beat them the week before in their barn and then in our barn on Friday night. That maybe got their attention a little bit.”
THE CENTRAL’S BEST?
Both these teams have started to separate themselves in the Central Division standings.
Alexandria has stretched its lead over third-place Austin to eight points in the last month. Aberdeen is fourth with 54 points as all four playoff spots have been secured, thanks to Minot having an NAHL worst 5-40-2 record this season.
It is all about playoff positioning the rest of the way. Alexandria would love to hang onto the No. 2 seed to give itself home ice in the first round. The Blizzard, probably more than any team, knows how quickly things can change from week-to-week in this league.
Alexandria entered the final weekend last year in third place. The Blizzard ended it with its first division title in dramatic fashion. That’s why you won’t hear DelCastillo claim his team has established itself as one of the top two teams in the division at this point in the season.
“I might tell you that one week and the next week I might say no,” he said. “The last time we played Austin, we were in their barn, and they gave us a pretty good thumping. I just don’t concern myself with that. We concentrate on getting better rather than how we compare with other teams.”
A BREAK FROM BISMARCK
Alexandria will now get a week off from facing Bismarck, or any team in the Central Division, as it gets set to host Coulee Region for two games this weekend.
The Chill moved to the Midwest Division this season. Coulee Region currently sits in fourth place, 15 points ahead of Chicago for the final playoff spot. Alexandria is 4-2 against the Chill this season, but the last time these two teams met was on December 17.
“We haven’t played them in a while so I don’t know the ins and outs of them,” DelCastillo said. “I know they have got a good team, and they’re very well coached…They’ve beat us this year already so I know we’ll have to be ready to play. It’s a good opportunity with a couple games at home here.”
It’s the Blizzard’s last two home games until March 16. Alexandria embarks on a four-game road trip after this weekend with games in Minot and Bismarck next weekend and two in Aberdeen March 9-10.
ALEXANDRIA 1 0 2 – 3
BISMARCK 0 2 4 – 6
SHOTS – Alexandria – 7, 9, 13 – 29; Bismarck – 13, 23, 9 – 45; Power plays – Alexandria – 0-2; Bismarck – 1-3
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Reid Sturos (Hayden Trupp, Nick D’Avolio), 17:14
SECOND PERIOD – Bismarck – Castan Sommer (PP) (Donald Olivieri), 7:27; Bismarck – Shane Omdahl), 17:55
THIRD PERIOD – Bismarck – Caston Sommer (Francis DeAugustine), 0:59; Bismarck – Francis DeAugustine (Rory Vesel, Adam Knochenmus), 4:04; Bismarck – Donald Olivieri (Bryce Schmitt), 8:22; Alexandria – Nick D’Avolio (Michael Mooney, Hayden Trupp), 10:18; Bismarck – Grant Mindt (unassisted), 11:51; Alexandria – Craig Lindegard, unassisted, 15:57
GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Jameson Shortreed – L, 39 saves, 45 shots; Bismarck – Tommy Burke – W, 26 saves, 29 shots
BISMARCK 1 0 0 – 1
ALEXANDRIA 1 1 3 – 5
SHOTS – Bismarck – 5, 8, 11 – 24; Alexandria – 11, 9, 14 – 34; Power plays – Bismarck – 0-4; Alexandria – 2-3
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Bismarck – Ryan Callahan (Jeremy OKeefe), 2:06; Alexandria – Dylan Zink (Nick DeCenzo, Tucker Coborn), 15:04
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Gage Torrel (Craig Lindegard, Dylan Zink), 17:04
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Reid Sturos (PP) (Hayden Trupp, Nick D’Avolio), 12:07; Alexandria – Tucker Coborn (PP) (Jordan Krebsbach, Thomas Williams), 18:24; Alexandria – Grant Eichstadt (Craig Lindegard, Vadim Gyesbreghs), 19:08
GOALTENDING – Bismarck – Tommy Burke – L, 29 saves, 34 shots; Alexandria – Jacob Meyers – W, 23 saves, 24 shots