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Leets sparks weekend sweep for Alex Blizzard

ALEXANDRIA - It took most of the Alexandria Blizzard half a period to shake off their holiday rust. Fortunately, goalie Ryan Leets (Kentwood, Mich.) was ready to roll from the opening faceoff.

ALEXANDRIA - It took most of the Alexandria Blizzard half a period to shake off their holiday rust. Fortunately, goalie Ryan Leets (Kentwood, Mich.) was ready to roll from the opening faceoff.

It was Leets' spectacular 21-save first period December 29 in Owatonna that enabled the Blizzard to return to form. From the 10-minute mark on, Alexandria dominated Southern Minnesota, skating to a fourth straight win over the Express.

A pair of victories, by scores of 3-2 and 9-6, enabled Alexandria's North American Hockey League team to finish 6-1-0 in December.

"Leetsy was huge for us," said forward Jerry Freismuth (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.). "It could have been a very different game. He pumped us up to go out and score some goals."

Sunday's contest was headed for a Blizzard blowout after the Express spotted Alexandria a 5-1 lead. But Southern Minnesota stormed back to tie it midway through the third.

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"We went out in the third period and stopped working, stopped playing our systems," Freismuth admitted. "In this league, you can't even take one shift off."

Less than two minutes later, however, the Blizzard lead was back to two on goals by Freismuth and Jasha Pettit (Wadena).

"Their defense kind of messed up and the puck kicked right out to me," Pettit explained. "I just turned around and ripped it at the net. It went in on the blocker side."

Freismuth finished the game with four points. He and linemates Luke Nesper (Eagle River, Wisc.) and Mikael Lickteig (Little Falls) had a 15-point weekend. Leets raised his season record to 7-7-1.

After going winless in November, Alexandria's December turnaround has propelled the Blizzard back into playoff contention. Alexandria is 9-15-2 with 31 games remaining.

"It feels so good to finally get on a roll," Pettit said. "And we have been rolling for quite awhile now."

Nesper's consecutive-game point streak has reached 11, with 23 points in that stretch. His 1.19 points per game is second only to North Iowa's Shea Walters in the NAHL's Central Division. Lickteig has 12 points in his last five games.

Defenseman Joe Hartman, with nine points and a plus/minus rating of +8 in the last eight games, has been a huge part of the Blizzard renaissance, as well.

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"It feels great," Freismuth said. "It was tough losing all those games but we knew we were almost there. Now we're playing with a lot more confidence but we can't let up now. We've got a lot more left to do here."

The Blizzard are in action Friday and Saturday in Bismarck before returning home January 10 for a Southern Minnesota rematch.

BLIZZARD BITS - The Blizzard have added goalie Dylan Woodring (Medford, Ore.) and forward Rick Nawojski (Lancaster, NY) on a tryout basis...Mickel Lickteig played through a painful hip injury suffered early in Saturday's game...Forward Garrett Grimstad (Rochester) suffered a possible separated shoulder Sunday...Forward Jens Nilsson (Matfors, Sweden) received a deep four-inch gash in his back courtesy of an errant skate blade.

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