Blizzard hockey: Coming out firing
The Alexandria Blizzard came back rested and ready from a holiday break and swept its way into second place in the Central Division with three straight wins over the weekend to officially end the first half of the season with a franchise-best 19-10-2 record.
The Blizzard got back to what made this team successful during the month of November. Alexandria never trailed in wins over Austin (2-1), Aberdeen (5-2) and Minot (7-1) on a weekend where Jacob Meyers was great in net and the Blizzard's offense and defense were clicking.
"I thought it was a great way to come back from Christmas break," head coach Doc DelCastillo said. "It seemed like any time one of the other teams scored, we responded, many times within the next minute or so. I thought we just played extremely well."
Meyers was dominant over the weekend, improving his record to 15-6-1 with his fourth straight win. The Minnetonka native stopped 78 of the 82 shots he faced in the three games and lowered his goals against average to 1.91 and his save percentage to .930. Both those numbers are fourth best among NAHL goalies.
"I'm happy for him," DelCastillo said. "Anytime I've ever been involved with a goalie receiving individual recognition on a team, that usually means your team is winning a lot of hockey games. Anytime he gets those individual honors, it's a reflection of our team and what we're doing to help him. Then Jacob's making the saves and getting the job done."
Some of the Blizzard's success over the weekend stems from getting healthy for the first time in a long time. Two players who were expected to produce a lot for Alexandria missed significant stretches of the first half in Tucker Coborn and Thomas Williams.
Coborn came back with a flurry after being out since December 3. The Park Rapids forward scored twice in the first period against Minot and finished with three points in the game. He wrapped up the weekend with three goals and three assists.
Williams was equally impressive with six points over the weekend. He scored a goal and added two assists against the Minotauros. He helped out with two more assists against Aberdeen on Saturday and had a first-period goal that proved big in a close win over Austin on Sunday.
Jordan Krebsbach suffered a concussion late in the game against Minot. That kept him out the rest of the weekend, but for the most part, Alexandria enters the second half of the season as healthy as this team has been all year.
"Jordan is another integral part," DelCastillo said. "But it was nice up front to solidify some lines and get some guys together that we thought would play well together."
The improved health only adds to an already deep Blizzard rotation. Alexandria had five different guys score against Minot and four in the 5-2 win over Aberdeen. Charlie Aus has just five goals on the season but his fifth was a game winner against Austin on Sunday.
"We're just consistently a deep team," DelCastillo said. "We get contributions from all four lines, which is great. It's nice. I had a vision of putting certain guys together on lines, and I think we're finally at a level where we can do that."
Another second-half surge?
With a healthy roster comes hope that this team is ready for another strong second half of the season under DelCastillo. The third-year head coach preaches the importance of working hard early and getting rewarded for that when the calendar turns.
It's hard to argue with the results. Alexandria is 40-15-4 in the second half of the season under DelCastillo.
"I think we work extremely hard on and off the ice as far as conditioning and skating and lifting," he said. "We know as a team what we do, and I think the guys expect success when they do certain things like that. But you can't take anything for granted. Injuries play a part in being successful. All we can control is how hard we practice and what we do on a daily basis. When the games come around, hopefully it pays off."
To the road
If Alexandria is going to keep its four-game winning streak going, it will have to come on the road as the Blizzard plays its next three games away from the Runestone Community Center.
Alexandria's only game this week came last night, Thursday, in Minot. The Blizzard will travel to Aberdeen for a doubleheader against the Wings next Friday and Saturday night. It's a chance for the Blizzard to continue to inch closer to first-place Bismarck with three games against teams below Alexandria in the standings.
"Each night, you're only as good as the next 60 minutes you're playing," DelCastillo said. "Things totally change from one game to the next...as a coach, you don't take anything for granted. We'll have to be ready to go."
AUSTIN 0 1 0 - 1
ALEXANDRIA 1 1 0 - 2
SHOTS - Austin - 8, 9, 7 - 24; Alexandria - 20, 17, 7 - 44; Power plays - Austin - 0-2; Alexandria - 0-6
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Thomas Williams (Tucker Coborn, Seth Ronsberg), 4:51
SECOND PERIOD - Austin - Matt Hansen (Austin Nelson, Connor Quinn), 8:00; Alexandria - Charlie Aus (Dylan Zink, Tucker Coborn), 8:49
THIRD PERIOD - No scoring
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - W, 23 saves, 24 shots; Austin - Nicholas Lehr - L, 42 saves, 44 shots
PENALTIES - Alexandria - four minutes on two infractions; Austin - 22 minutes on seven infractions
ALEXANDRIA 1 3 1 - 5
ABERDEEN 1 1 0 - 2
SHOTS - Alexandria - 12, 15, 17 - 44; Aberdeen - 9, 18, 5 - 32; Power plays - Alexandria - 0-6; Aberdeen - 0-7
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Tucker Coborn (Grant Eichstadt, Dylan Zink), 2:34; Aberdeen - Lane Mahoney (Justin Parizek, Paul Prescott), 16:11
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Nick D'Avolio, 5:08; Alexandria - Seth Ronsberg (Thomas Williams), 6:59; Alexandria - Reid Sturos (Vadim Gyesbreghs, Nick D'Avolio), 7:57; Aberdeen - Cory Ward (Mack Ohnsted, Lane Mahoney), 17:33
THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - Seth Ronsberg (empty net) (Thomas Williams, Dylan Zink), 19:34
GOALTENDING - Alexandria - Jacob Meyers - W, 30 saves, 32 shots; Aberdeen - Marcus Zelzer - L, 15 saves, 19 shots
PENALTIES - Alexandria - 16 minutes on eight infractions; Aberdeen - 14 minutes on seven infractions
MINOT 1 0 0 - 1
ALEXANDRIA 3 2 2 - 7
SHOTS - Minot - 11, 8, 7; Alexandria - 12, 11, 16 - 39; Power plays - Minot - 0-5; Alexandria - 1-5
SCORING - FIRST PERIOD - Alexandria - Tucker Coborn (Seth Ronsberg, Williams) 4:24; Minot - Clay Blankenship (Richard Young, ichael Zagari), 8:12; Alexandria - Nick DeCenzo (Grant Eichstadt, Zink), 8:35; Alexandria - Coborn (Williams, Jordan Krebsbach), 17:20
SECOND PERIOD - Alexandria - Zink (Gage Torrel, Nick DeCenzo), 17:15; Alexandria - Williams (PPG) (Coborn, Aus), 18:56
THIRD PERIOD - Alexandria - D'Avolio (Krebsbach, Aus), 4:55; Alexandria - Vadim Gyesbreghs (Justin Moody, Craig Lindegard), 13:47
GOALTENDING - Minot - Tim Shaughnessy - L, 32 saves, 39 shots; Alexandria - Meyers - W, 25 saves, 26 shots
PENALTIES - Minot - 17 minutes on seven infractions; Alexandria - 17 minutes on seven infractions