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Blizzard hockey: Giller's late goal does the trick against first-place Lumberjacks

Alexandria Blizzard forward Tommy Giller fights for a loose puck between two Granite City defenders on Sunday afternoon. Giller scored the game-winning goal with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left in the third period in the 1-0 contest. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 3
Blizzard defenseman Connor Nilson gets held up by two Granite City players as he tries to go to the net on Sunday afternoon. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)2 / 3
Blizzard forward Riley Meyer sends a shot on net during the third period of a 1-0 win over Granite City at the Runestone Community Center on Sunday. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)3 / 3

More than 50 shots had been fired on net at the Runestone Community Center on Sunday afternoon with nothing to show for it until Tommy Giller got the puck on his stick late in the third.

The Blizzard forward from White Bear Lake saw a two-on-one developing after teammate David Carey got the puck up to Riley Meyer near center ice. Meyer timed his pass perfectly after setting up Granite City goaltender David Mulligan. Giller got the puck from Meyer right of the net and went top shelf to beat Mulligan with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left. That’s all it took in a 1-0 win over the Lumberjacks.  

”David tipped the puck to Riley and Riley just beat the guy,” Giller said. “I was calling for it on the 2-on-1. Great pass. Just saw the top left corner and buried it. I feel like once we got that one it was over, because it felt like we outplayed them the whole game. We just didn’t get the bounces this game.”

It was a matchup of the top two teams in the West Division. The Lumberjacks (28-6-4-2) are 12 points up of the Blizzard (25-12), but Alexandria outshot them 36-25 on Sunday. Mulligan was good in net, but Brey Effertz was a little better as the second-year Blizzard goalie secured the shutout.

“I felt pretty good,” Effertz said. “The team was playing really well in front of me. We were blocking lots of shots and getting sticks in lanes, making my job really easy. The pucks that I did see, I saw them all the way through. There were no bodies in front of me, so I think that was a good team-defense win.”

It was still a scoreless game midway through the third when Lumberjacks’ forward Ryan Smith got the puck and had a good look in front of the net. Effertz made the stop with his body. It was one of the final quality chances Granite City got.

The Blizzard outshot the Lumberjacks despite penalties leaving Alexandria shorthanded much of the night. There were 11 total penalties between the two teams in the first period. Alexandria was 0-for-5 on the power play overalll, but continued to provide the Lumberjacks with the man advantage through the final two periods.

The Blizzard had seven more penalties between the second and third frames. Granite City could do nothing with it, though, as the Lumberjacks went 0-for-9 on the power play.

“You just got to take it one shot at a time and make sure you’re staying focused the whole time,” Effertz said. “Make sure you can look around bodies and see the puck.”

The Lumberjacks have had the Blizzard’s number in recent years, but Alexandria is proving it can play with the top team in the division this winter. Sunday’s win moved the Blizzard to 5-2 against Granite City this season.

“We’ve had lots of success against these guys this year,” Effertz said. “I think we put together a good 60-minute game every time we play them. It’s always a good game when we see them. It’s always good goaltending on both sides and offense shines too.”

These two teams play each other just once more during the regular season, but if history repeats itself they will likely meet in the playoffs again. The Lumberjacks have ended the Blizzard’s season four straight years.

Alexandria likely wouldn’t mind another postseason matchup to try to erase that, but this team hopes it doesn’t come in the first round. The Lumberjacks are relatively comfortable in first place but with three more games played than Alexandria.

The Blizzard has Breezy Point (22-16-3, 47 points) not far behind it in the standings with the two teams meeting twice next weekend. Alexandria will be at Breezy on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. start before the North Stars come to the Runestone Community Center at 7:10 on Saturday night.

It's a big weekend ahead of Alexandria as the Blizzard tries to build off another with over the Lumberjacks.

“I think we’re taking it one game at a time and getting ready for playoffs,” Giller said. “We’re doing pretty good right now in second. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be fine.”

ALEXANDRIA     0 0 1 – 1

GRANITE CITY     0 0 0 – 0

SHOTS – Alexandria – 13, 15, 8 – 36; Granite City – 9, 7, 9 – 25

SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – No scoring

SECOND PERIOD – No scoring

THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Giller (Meyer, Carey), 16:49

GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Effertz – W, 25 saves, 0 goals allowed; Granite City – Mulligan – L, 35 saves, 1 goal allowed

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.

(320) 763-1229
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