Blizzard hockey: Coulee Region has Alexandria's number once again
The Alexandria Blizzard fell victim to a reoccurring theme against Coulee Region in its first game back after the holiday break.
Alexandria's two weekend games against Aberdeen and Austin were postponed to a later date because of the snow and ice that blanketed much of Minnesota. That did not affect the Blizzard's date at Coulee Region last Thursday as the two teams played their sixth game against each other since November 5.
In those games, the Chill has developed a trend of scoring early and making enough plays late to earn the wins. That was the case again last week as Coulee Region won its fifth straight against Alexandria in a tight 4-3 game.
"I think you want to look at the positives," head coach Doc DelCastillo said. "It was a very good hockey game, and it was two competitive teams. The guys competed. The down side to that is Coulee Region found a way to win another one-goal hockey game with us. In the last month and a half, they have found a way to win quite a few of those."
The Chill put the Blizzard behind the eight ball early with a goal 28 seconds into the game. Falling behind early has been an issue that has plagued Alexandria for much of the season. In most of those games, the Blizzard has found a way to bounce back and make things competitive. They did that again behind two goals from Brent Bain in the opening period.
"It's déjà vu," DelCastillo said of falling behind early. "It's one of those things that the last three games we've played against them, that's happened. So it's familiar territory. One thing that I've found out with our team, though, is we're not short on character. It doesn't matter if we're down 5-1 or 3-0 after the first five minutes, we're going to fight."
The Blizzard fought all the way back to tie the game in the second period. Michael Pieper connected on a power-play goal 16 seconds into the middle frame to even things up at three apiece.
That is how the game stood late into the third period. That is when Tommy Miller took advantage of an opportunity with less than five minutes left. Miller connected for the game winner off assists from James Hughes and Matt Blomquist.
Penalties kept the Blizzard offense from moving at full strength most of the night. Alexandria players spent 38 minutes in the box on 11 infractions. Five of those came in the first period when the Chill did the bulk of its damage on offense.
"I don't know," DelCastillo said when asked if tension was beginning to run over with two teams that have seen so much of each other recently. "I do know that in general, if you take as many penalties as we did that night, you're not going to win that many hockey games. The other team either scores or you spend so much time and energy trying to kill the power play.
"It's not a real comfortable identity for me. Traditionally, since I've been here, we've been one of the least penalized teams in the league. My philosophy is usually the team that spends the most time in the penalty box is the team that ends up losing the game."
The Blizzard will have to clean that up if it wants to make up any ground in a tough Central Division. Alexandria is currently in fourth place with 28 points and a 12-12-4 record. Coulee Region and Bismarck are tied for first with 39 points, while Owatonna is right behind with 38.
Alexandria has another chance to gain ground and break its five-game losing streak against Coulee Region this weekend. The Chill comes to the Runestone Cummunity Center this Friday night for a 7:30 drop of the puck. The two teams then travel back to Onalaska, Wisconsin on Saturday for the second game of the two-game set.
ALEXANDRIA 2 1 0 - 3
COULEE REGION 3 0 1 - 4
SHOTS - Alexandria - 15, 17, 11 - 43; Coulee Region - 10, 9. 17 - 36
SCORING SUMMARY - FIRST PERIOD - Coulee Region - Lucas Dillon (Connor Gaarder, David Ripple), 0:28; Alexandria - Brent Bain (Thomas Williams, Steve Zierke), 6:36; Coulee Region - Jake Useldinger (Berkley Scott, Scott Bell), 8:36; Alexandria - Bain (PPG) (Paul LaDue, Zierke), 12:59; Coulee Region - Ripple (Matt Blomquist), 17:04
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Michael Pieper (PPG) (Williams, Nardo Nagtzaam), 0:16
THIRD PERIOD - Coulee Region - Tommy Miller (James Hughes, Blomquist), 15:53
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - L, 32 saves, 36 shots faced; Coulee Region - Aaron Davis - W, 40 saves, 43 shots faced
PENALTIES - Alexandria - 38 minutes on 11 infractions; Coulee Region - 14 minutes on seven infractions