Blizzard Hockey: Alexandria rolls into playoffsThe Blizzard hopes for a deep playoff run with a record-setting regular season wrapped up.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The Alexandria Blizzard has to turn the page and focus on the opening round of the Central Division playoffs this weekend after a regular season this organization won’t soon forget.
The Blizzard set a franchise record for wins for the third straight year with its 40-15-5 record. It’s a mark that is overshadowed only because Bismarck set its own franchise record with 45 wins to win the Central Division.
“That’s a great regular season,” head coach Doc DelCastillo said after his team wrapped things up with a 4-3 win over Aberdeen and a 2-1 shootout win over Minot this past weekend. “That’s a lot of wins, but right now, we got to think that we’re 0-0 going into the playoffs.”
Such is life in a sporting world where teams make their biggest impression by what they do in the postseason. The good news is Alexandria is playing some of its best hockey of the season heading into tonight, Friday, for the first of two games against Austin at the Runestone Community Center this weekend.
The Blizzard has put together an 8-2-1 record in the month of March, despite being without two of its top players. Charlie Aus and Nick D’Avolio have been out for a couple weeks and their status for this weekend was still up in the air as of Tuesday. Alexandria has been able to win without them, showing off the depth that this team hopes will carry it to a long playoff run.
“The way we’re competing – we’re getting good goaltending, solid team defense, everything that a coach can ask for, we’re doing,” DelCastillo said. “I think we’re ready to go, and hopefully we get a couple guys back into our lineup.”
The Blizzard will be going up against a Bruins team that looks a lot like Alexandria on paper. Austin, like the Blizzard, relies on its depth to put goals on the board.
The Bruins have 12 players with more than 25 points through the regular season. Charlie Adams leads the way with 51 points, and John Simonson, Jeremy Finger and John Kirby join him with a team-leading 18 goals.
“They do like to get guys to go right to the net,” Blizzard goaltender Jacob Meyers said after a 5-3 win over Austin on March 25. “They stick a big guy like Finger out there, and it’s hard for anybody to see around him. The thing that they’re really good at is causing a lot of havoc in front of the net, just crashing and burying the kind of sloppy goals. Those are what wins games.”
Alexandria has relied on its aggressiveness around the net to do the same. The Blizzard has 11 players with at least 25 points. Reid Sturos (49), Tucker Coborn (46), D’Avolio (44) and Seth Ronsberg (42) lead the way, but every line has proven it can change a game at any given time this season.
DelCastillo believes those similar styles will lead to a back-and-forth opening playoff series. The Blizzard was 7-5 against the Bruins during the regular season, but all that is a moot point when they drop the puck at 7:30 tonight.
“We’ve gone back and forth with them,” DelCastillo said. “They’ve been very good hockey games. I think we’re going to have to have great goaltending, very good team defense and timely goal scoring…but if you talked to the Austin coach, he would probably list the same things. That’s playoff hockey.”
TO GET NOTICED
DelCastillo admitted a long playoff run would be fun for the organization, but more importantly, for the players.
The longer this team plays into April, the more chances there are for these guys to get noticed by coaches at the next level.
“At this time of the season, the biggest thing our organization wants to do is move players onto college,” DelCastillo said. “The biggest key to doing that is playing as long as you possibly can. As teams get whittled out in the playoffs, colleges want to scout and recruit and there’s only a handful of teams still playing. We’d like to see that happen for these guys.”
The Bruins want that equally as bad. Both teams have guys who could benefit from the exposure that a deep playoff run would bring.
“It’s going to be disappointing in a couple weeks when one team is done,” DelCastillo said, “because both teams are very good. The biggest beneficiary of this series is going to be the fans. It’s going to be great hockey.”
The two teams will wrap up the weekend Saturday night with game two at 7:30. Game three will be in Austin next Friday night and a game four (if necessary) would follow on Saturday night. A decisive game five would take place back in Alexandria on Sunday at 7 p.m.
MINOT 0 1 0 0 0 – 1
ALEXANDRIA 1 0 0 0 1 – 2
SHOTS – Minot – 6, 6, 8, 2 – 22; Alexandria – 14, 16, 23, 7, 1 – 61
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Tucker Coborn (PPG) (Michael Mooney, Jordan Krebsbach), 10:58
SECOND PERIOD – Minot – Matt Audette (Hunter Bergerson, Tim Shaughnessy), 9:47
THIRD PERIOD – No scoring
OVERTIME – No scoring
SHOOTOUT – Minot – Jadin Martin; Josh Twietmeyer – goal; Kelvin Walz; Joe Hockert; Derek Tylka; Alexandria – Craig Lindegard – goal; Seth Ronsberg; Reid Sturos; Jordan Krebsbach; Thomas Williams – goal
GOALTENDING – Minot – Tim Shaughnessy – OTL, 59 saves, 60 shots; Alexandria – Jacob Meyers – W, 21 saves, 22 shots
ABERDEEN 0 0 3 – 3
ALEXANDRIA 1 2 1 – 4
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Craig Lindegard (Matt Youso, Vadim Gyesbreghs), 12:56
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Tucker Coborn (Gage Torrel, Craig Lindegard), 4:43; Alexandria – Gage Torrel (Tucker Coborn, Michael Mooney), 17:52
THIRD PERIOD – Aberdeen – Ross Pavek (PPG) (Mike Parnell, Joe Mottiqua), 2:34; Alexandria – Reid Sturos (shorthanded) (Michael Mooney, Vadim Gyesbreghs), 5:42; Aberdeen – Trevor Husch (CJ Reuschlein, Joseph Sullivan), 12:19; Aberdeen – Joe Mottiqua (Ross Pavek, Tyler Dunagan), 16:08