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Blizzard offseason moves

Garrett Skinner skates up the ice during a playoff game against Granite City. Skinner will play at St. John’s University next season. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

It has been a busy start to the offseason for the Alexandria Blizzard as six outgoing players are in the process of selecting college teams for next year and three have been tendered to NAHL teams.

Six Blizzard players from 2013-2014 will turn 21 this year, meaning they have run out of eligibility to play junior hockey. Head coach Jeff Crouse expects all six to move on and play Division III hockey next season.

The three players who have already made the final decision about where to play next season will do so in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Ian Ecklund will head to Bethel University, while Garrett Skinner and Drake Hunter are both headed to St. John’s University.

Crouse said Aammir Freese, Mick Dhein and Zach Kihle are each in discussions with multiple schools but have not made a final decision on where they want to play.

The main objective for the Blizzard is to find every player who is in his final year of eligibility a college where they can continue to play hockey.

“That’s our goal when we have any of these kids that are turning 21 and aren’t going to be here anymore,” Crouse said. “We want to make sure we find them a good college to go to.”

Three Blizzard players from last season who are still eligible to play junior hockey have also been tendered by teams at the NAHL level for next year. These tendered players will have the opportunity next season to stick with the tier II teams that have selected them.

Aaron Ryback has been tendered by the Brookings Blizzard, Tanner Skaja by the Bismarck Bobcats and Joe Anderson by the Minnesota Wilderness.

Although Crouse said the team would enjoy having these players on the roster next season, one of the objectives for teams in the NA3HL is to develop players for teams at higher levels.

“We loved having them here, but we want to make sure we are moving players on, whether it is up to the NAHL or even the higher level,” Crouse said.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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