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Alexandria natives leading a now 33-6-4 16U team for Northstar as Knights open full slate of weekend games

Alex Klimek, Brayden Berg and Beck Liden were part of a 3-0 win for the Knights on Friday afternoon as they helped kick off a bunch of games in Alexandria through Sunday that will honor the local fire and police departments.

Brayden Berg hockey
Alexandria native Brayden Berg leads a rush down the ice with teammate and fellow Alexandria native Alex Klimek right behind him during the Northstar 16U's game against the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders on Jan. 28, 2022. Berg leads the Knights in points so far this season with 51 on 30 goals and 21 assists in 34 games played, while Klimek has 4 goals and 12 assists in 41 games played.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA — The Northstar Christian Academy in Alexandria is hosting a full slate of games with multiple hockey programs in town through Sunday, and the Knights’ 16U team got that started on the right foot on Friday.

This weekend’s games at the Northstar Sports Complex are part of a fundraiser that will take place with Knights players wearing special jerseys honoring the Alexandria fire and police departments. Those jerseys will be auctioned off as part of an online auction that will raise funds for both local departments.

Northstar’s 16U team opened up play on Friday against the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders in a game that saw Alexandria natives Brayden Berg and Beck Liden both shine as part of a 3-0 win.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Knights’ 16U head coach Tim Jackman said. “It’s something we’re extremely proud about and excited about to honor the firemen and police officers. It took a little bit to get our game going, but our guys came out and played really physical. When they play like that, we’re a good hockey club.”

Ryan Murphy and Jacob Lundeen hockey
Northstar Knights' forward Ryan Murphy, back, celebrates his first-period goal with teammate Jacob Lundeen against the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders on Jan. 28, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Knights are 33-6-4 and ranked 43rd in the nation at the 16U level. Northstar grabbed a 1-0 lead against the RoughRiders on a goal from Woodlands, Texas native Ryan Murphy off assists from Max Evans (Waterdown, South Dakota) and Jacob Lundeen (Seattle, Washington).

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The Knights took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission before scoring two more times in the second period. Berg scored early in the period off an assist from Lincoln Hjelm (Omaha, Nebraska). Bronson Hunt of Long Beach, New York, then made it 3-0 off assists from Sam Kartch (Duluth) and Tanner Hunt (Long Beach, NY).

“We just kept it simple,” Berg said. “We kept the forecheck on them, and kept playing our normal game that we practice all week for. We’re just going to keep that going moving forward.”

Berg leads this team in points at 51 after scoring his 30th goal in 34 games played. He has added 21 assists to help lead an offense for Northstar that is averaging 3.6 goals per game.

“Just coming to the rink every day trying to get better,” Berg said of the key to that success. “I have some helpful linemates who help me out with that as well by feeding me. It’s all fun.”

Brayden Berg hockey
Alexandria native Brayden Berg looks up the ice for an open teammate during the Northstar Knights' 16U game against the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders on Jan. 28, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Jackman, who played 483 games with multiple teams in the National Hockey League, credited Berg for taking the next step in his game this season by finishing more consistently around the net.

“He’s always had speed to get chances, but now the puck is going in the net,” Jackman said. “He’s got a little more poise, a little more touch around the net. His shot is getting better, and it’s just something he continues to work on. He does a lot of the right things away from the puck. He’s a very talented young man. He’s got a bright future, and he’s going to continue to work.”

The Knights outshot the RoughRiders 27-17 as Liden improved his record in goal to 15-6 with the 17-save shutout. His defense limited the good scoring chances that Rocky Mountain got, but Liden made a few tough saves over the final two periods that kept the shutout intact.

“Just consistent hard work,” Liden said of what has keyed a good season so far for him. “Like Brayden said, it’s coming to the rink with the mentality to just keep getting better. For me, it’s to push these boys to keep getting better every day. That’s a two-way street that helps us all out.”

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Beck Liden
Alexandria native Beck Liden pushes aside a shot in the second period for the Northstar Knights' 16U team against the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders on Jan. 28, 2022. Liden got the win against the Roughriders to up his overall record to 15-6 this season.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Liden helps anchor a defense that allows just 1.72 goals a game this season. He led the team with 20 games played to go with a .927 save percentage and 1.80 goals against average coming into this weekend.

Max Weilandt of Northbrook, Illinois has a 14-3 record with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Merik Grinaker (Fargo, North Dakota) is the youngest goalie on the team. He has also impressed with a 0.71 goals against average and a 6-0 record.

“There is a really strong foundation in the net for our team,” Jackman said. “It gives everybody confidence. They work hard in practice, take ownership of their craft. They want to get better as goalies, and all three of them are very competitive.”

Forward Alex Klimek has 4 goals and 12 assists in 41 games played as he joins Berg and Liden as another Alexandria native who is helping this second-year program to a winning season.

“They’ve been bigtime contributors to our program,” Jackman said of Klimek, Berg and Liden. “They have a solid foundation from the program they came from. Alex and Brayden are extremely smart hockey players. They’re fast, they’re competitors, and Beck is just a hungry young man who wants to keep getting better. We’re very fortunate to have them wanting to be a part of our program and to watch them continue to grow as young men and as hockey players.”

The 16U team has two more games this weekend as they play the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals at noon on Saturday and then Sioux Falls at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Northstar’s third-ranked 18U team kicks off its opening game of the three-game weekend on Friday night at 7:30.

“We want to keep getting better, grow as a group and just go win the Dixon Cup in a couple weeks,” Berg said. “Our big goal is winning the Dixon Cup for the league that we’re in. That’s the next big challenge for us. If we keep playing the way we are, I think we have a good chance.”

Both Northstar programs figure to be serious contenders for that Dixon Cup title in their divisions of the North American Prep Hockey League. Jackman wants his guys to focus on continuing to come together as a group as this 16U team works toward its end-of-season goals.

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“The biggest thing would just be unity in our team,” Jackman said. “That they’re willing to serve each other and sacrifice for each other. Not everybody gets to play on the power play, not everybody gets to play on the penalty kill. Certain guys play more than others, but having the joy that we’re a team and a family, we’re going to win games for each other and play for each other. That’s what I would like to see. Then continue to witness to other programs what Christ is doing in our locker room, and in our program that we get to be a part of.”

GAME SCHEDULE AT NORTHSTAR SPORTS COMPLEX

JANUARY 28 - Noon - U16 Knights vs. Rocky Mountain RoughRiders (RMR); 2:30 p.m. - U18 Sioux Falls (SF) vs. RMR; 5 p.m. - U16 SF vs. Milwaukee Jr. Admirals (MJA); 7:30 - U18 Knights vs. MJA

JANUARY 29 - Noon - U16 Knights vs. MJA; 2:30 p.m. - U16 SF vs. RMR; 5 p.m. - U18 Knights vs. RMR; 7:30 p.m. - U18 SF vs. MJA

JANUARY 30 - 8 a.m. - U16 MJA vs. RMR; 10:30 a.m. - U18 MJA vs. RMR; 1 p.m. - U16 Knights vs. SF; 3:30 p.m. - U18 Knights vs. SF

ONLINE AUCTION: To view the online auction that will benefit the Alexandria fire and police departments, visit https://web.dashapp.io/auctions/knightshockey . More items are added as they come in. The auction opened on Jan. 23 and closes at 5 p.m. on Jan. 30.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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