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Blizzard hockey: Alexandria grabs series lead with big third period

The Alexandria Blizzard jump on Tosten Mann after his third period goal on Friday night at the Runestone Community Center. Mann's goal proved to be the game winner in the 3-2 playoff victory. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 3
Alexandria Blizzard forward Tommy Giller fires a shot on net that finds the back of the net in the third period on Friday night. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)2 / 3
Alexandria Blizzard forward Josiah Roen races for a loose puck with New Ulm's Jared Mickelson on Friday night at the RCC. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)3 / 3

The Alexandria Blizzard opened the West Division playoffs with home ice on Friday night and got the job done to take a 1-0 lead over New Ulm in the best-of-three series.

The third-seeded Steel tied the game 2-2 with a power play goal from Nicholas Campbell at 8:41 in the third. Less than two minutes later, Alexandria answered.

Dawson Ellingworth got the play started by getting the puck up to Tosten Mann, who dumped it off to Caleb Anderson. That ignited a 2-on-1 break that Anderson set up beautifully by waiting for the right moment to dump it off to Mann on the left side of the crease. He buried it at 10:12 for what turned out to be the game winner.

“Dawson gave me the puck in the neutral zone and I kind of hopped up into the play,” Mann said. “Caleb joined me, told me to go and he swung behind me. I dropped it back to him and he had the patience to walk around the guy and slip it to me backdoor. I had a wide open net.”

The Blizzard never really wavered after that. The Steel pulled goaltender Nathan Siclovan late and had a couple chances, but Blizzard goalie Brey Effertz turned them aside to get the win with 26 saves.

“It’s huge momentum wise,” Mann said of scoring less than two minutes after the Steel had tied things in the third. “We controlled the rest of the game after that most of the time. That’s huge to get the momentum back right after they score.”

It was a 1-1 game after two periods. Alexandria outshot New Ulm 17-4 in the first 20 minutes but had just an Alex Bowe goal to show for it. The Steel controlled the second period with a 16-10 shots advantage and a goal from Dylan Leivermann at 9:49 to tie it.

“We came out flat,” Blizzard forward Tommy Giller said. “We just weren’t playing the body like we were in the first. We came out really fast and then kind of let up, but the third period we came back hard and got it done.”

It was Giller who got things going in the final period as he scored at 3:19 off assists from Steven Gustafson and David Carey. Giller had the puck in front of the blue line and fired it on net hoping for a deflection. Instead, it snuck through a clear path and past Siclovan for the lead.

“I saw there was a lot of traffic,” Giller said. “I was hoping for a tip or something, but it just went in. Especially in playoffs, there’s going to be dirty goals, stuff in front. That’s how you’re going to score in playoffs.”

Alexandria outshot the Steel 37-28 overall. The Blizzard allowed just the one even-strength goal in the second and killed off three power plays. The last of those came after defenseman Jack Cernohous’ second tripping penalty of the third at 13:24.

Alexandria kept Effertz clean during that final power play for the Steel and held on down the stretch as New Ulm sent the extra attacker.

These two teams head to the Sleepy Eye Ice Arena on Saturday for a 7:10 p.m. drop of the puck. The Blizzard can wrap up the series with a win. Game three, if necessary, would be back in Alexandria on Sunday night at 7:10.

“We’ll just keep the same game plan,” Mann said. “Keep it simple, try to get it done tomorrow. Come out fast, body and get pucks to the net.”

ALEXANDRIA     1 0 2 – 3

NEW ULM          0 1 1 – 2

SHOTS – Alexandria – 17, 10, 10 – 37; New Ulm – 4, 16, 8 – 28

SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Bowe (Emil Lindfors, Josiah Roen), 9:27

SECOND PERIOD – New Ulm – Lievermann (Cory Martinez, Jared Mickelson), 9:49

THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Giller (Gustafson, Carey), 3:19; New Ulm – Campbell (PPG) (Alex Egle, Bennett Witta), 8:41; Alexandria – Mann (Anderson, Ellingworth), 10:12

GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Effertz – W, 26 saves, 2 goals allowed; New Ulm – Siclovan – L, 34 saves, 3 goals 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.

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