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Blizzard hockey: Central-leading Express comes to town


The Alexandria Blizzard's game originally scheduled for this Sunday has been postponed and rescheduled for Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Runestone Community Center.

Tickets for Sunday's game will still be accepted at the rescheduled date.

The Blizzard's recent stretch of strong play has added to the intrigue of this weekend's game with Owatonna at the Runestone Community Center.

The Express comes to town tomorrow night for a 7:30 game in what will be the only game of the weekend for the two teams. Owatonna enters as the top team in the Central Division but with plenty of competition right behind it.

The Express opened the door a little bit last week with three straight losses. They went on to drop two games against Austin over the weekend after falling in overtime in Alexandria last Wednesday.

Four teams are now separated by just seven points at the top of the league. Coulee Region is one point behind the Express with 50 points, while Bismarck and Alexandria round out the teams that are all still within striking distance heading into the last couple months of the season.

The Blizzard knows the opportunity it has in front of it over the next two days. A four-point weekend would only add to the suspense in an already jam-packed race at the top of the standings.

That is not what head coach Doc DelCastillo is concerned about, though. This team started the season with goals of winning a national championship. That remains the primary goal for a team that is focused on playing its best hockey as it heads down the stretch.

"Just continue to improve," DelCastillo said when asked what this team's focus will be heading into tomorrow's game. "We just want to play the way we've been playing. The nice thing is, when we're playing this way, it don't matter who we're playing against. We don't change the way we play and dictate that on who we're playing. We just have to continue to be smart with the puck, don't take penalties, play good defense - do the kind of things that help us win hockey games."

If it does that, Alexandria should be right in the thick of things at the end of the season. The Blizzard has 17 games left. Eight of those come against Aberdeen and Austin, two teams below it in the Central Standings. The Blizzard then wraps up the regular season with seven games against Coulee Region (3), Bismarck (3) and Owatonna (1). The final six of those games will be played at home.

DelCastillo has kept that in mind during his team's recent run. There is plenty of season left, and with three teams still in front of it, the Blizzard still has its work cut out for it.

But the opportunities will be there for Alexandria to continue its rise. The latest chance comes tomorrow for a team that is continuing to believe in itself with every win.

"We are a confident hockey team," DelCastillo said. "But I don't think we're running on an emotional high right now. We're just taking care of our business and just doing things you need to win games. Our confidence level is high, but I think it's an identity and it takes a while for a team to get that. There are certain ways we have to play to win, and I think in the last month, we've found that identity and good things are happening."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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