Alexandria Blizzard hoping message carries over
The words weren't minced, and they were meant to strike a chord with each and every person sitting in the room. Plain and simple, the Alexandria Blizzard were fed up with six straight weeks of bad habits that led to just a pair of wins in 15 game...
The words weren't minced, and they were meant to strike a chord with each and every person sitting in the room.
Plain and simple, the Alexandria Blizzard were fed up with six straight weeks of bad habits that led to just a pair of wins in 15 games.
So Friday, March 13 following the team's 10th straight defeat - this time 5-2 in Marquette - the Blizzard let off some steam.
"We needed to air some things out, and I wanted to let the players do it," said head coach/general manager Brad Willner. "I can harp on them all I want about different things, but for some reason, it means more when your teammates are saying it. They are like brothers, and it's not like your brother is going to lie to you. I think it helped to hear it like that."
It must have, as Alexandria bounced back to win 5-2 Saturday. But it wasn't just the final score that left Willner impressed. He said it was the work ethic and accountability on the ice that had him believing his team had returned to the form it showed the first half of the year.
"We were a team before, but I think guys realized that they thought they were doing the right things or playing hard, but when there is a consensus around the room, reality sinks in," he said. "We needed to quit playing 'me' hockey and start playing as a team. They did that, and we came out and played great."
Now, Alexandria needs to try and make their internal messages carry over this week, and even more importantly, into the next month, when the Blizzard begin their quest for back-to-back Central Division playoff championships.
This weekend, the opportunity to take a major step in getting themselves back into that conversation couldn't be any better.
Alexandria plays three home games Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Runestone Community Center - its first home series in a month - and all three will come against the two teams currently sitting with home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason in hand.
Second-place North Iowa is in town for 7 p.m. face-offs both Friday and Saturday, and then first-place Bismarck makes a visit at 5 p.m. Sunday.
From there, the Blizzard play at Bismarck Thursday, March 26, before closing out the regular season at home vs. Albert Lea Saturday, March 28.
All five games are important, but the two with Bismarck - the two teams are all but assured to be playing in that first round when the postseason begins April 3 - are huge.
"We have to establish that we can beat them," Willner said. "They've been close games when we've played them, but they've won the close games. We just have to find a way to put a couple wins up. Playoff games are going to be close, and you have to win those close games."
Alums in D3 Frozen Four
The University of Wisconsin-Stout has figured out just how critical those close games are.
The Blue Devils scored a goal with 37 seconds left in regulation to break a 1-1 tie with St. Scholastica last Saturday, earning a spot in this weekend's Division III NCAA Frozen Four, which will be played at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, New York.
Four former members of the Blizzard dress regularly for Stout, and Scott Motz, who captained Alexandria in 2006-07, set up the winner in the Blue Devils NCAA quarterfinal match-up with St. Scholastica.
"I'm not surprised he had a hand in it," Willner said. "He is a heart and soul kid. It was the same way when he was here."
Blue Devils Paul Henderson, Bobby Kuehl and Andy Sternberg also used to play in Alexandria. Sternberg scored Stout's first goal in the win.
They will join Motz and the rest of their teammates in New York Friday, when Stout is scheduled to play Gustavus Adolphus in the national semifinals at 4 p.m.
The Gusties and Blue Devils last met Nov. 7, with Gustavus winning 6-5.