Blizzard hockey: DelCastillo holding out hopes of adding Bitzer
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria head coach Doc DelCastillo knew there were no guarantees that Michael Bitzer would ever end up in a Blizzard uniform.
The standout goalie from Moorhead, and his teammate Terry Leabo, signed a tender in early December to play for Alexandria next season. That gave the Blizzard exclusive rights to the 18-year-old among teams in the North American Hockey League (NAHL). But that can’t keep teams from the United States Hockey League (USHL) from trying to lure him out of that commitment.
“Everybody we sign, we take the chance of them possibly getting a scholarship or ending up in the USHL,” DelCastillo said. “That’s something that goes with the territory. When you sign good players, other teams are going to notice they’re good players.”
Bitzer certainly falls under that category. Most hockey fans in Minnesota knew who he was coming into the season. For those who didn’t, they were introduced to him at the Xcel Energy Center when he shut out third-seeded Eagan in the opening round of the state tournament.
The Wildcats came into the game averaging more than six goals per game. They couldn’t get anything past Bitzer, who finished with 34 saves in Moorhead’s 4-0 upset. He finished the tournament 1-2 but stopped 79 of 83 shots.
That put the finishing touches on an award-winning senior season. He finished the year 22-8 with a 1.80 goals against average, a 9.33 save percentage and seven shutouts. That was enough to earn him the Frank Brimsek Award as Minnesota’s best senior goaltender. He also took home the Herb Brooks Award in Class 2A.
His numbers also made a lot of other teams other than the Blizzard take notice. Bitzer told Ryan Clark of the Fargo Forum over the weekend that schools have been in contact with him but that it’s just talking at this point, and nothing has been decided on his future plans.
DelCastillo hasn’t given up hope that those plans might include a year in the NAHL. The third-year head coach has kept in close contact with Bitzer and said he was going to be in Alexandria to practice with the Blizzard this week.
“As far as I know, he plans on coming and playing here right now,” DelCastillo said. “I don’t know what the future holds. You can never really count on them being here until you see the white of their eyes in September.”
Bitzer will likely be taken in the USHL Entry Draft on May 22. Fargo Force assistant coach and chief scout Jesse Davis told Clark of the Forum that the Force and many other teams in the USHL are definitely interested in Bitzer after proving himself once again at the state tournament.
It seems likely that the Moorhead standout will have some options on where he eventually plays next fall. No matter where he chooses, his ability to get to the next level is ultimately what matters most for the Blizzard.
“This whole organization is about giving guys the opportunity to get noticed and play at the next level,” DelCastillo said. “I think last weekend, Michael enhanced his opportunity to play college hockey. I’m happy for him, and we’ll keep trying and see what happens.”