Hockey: The Alexandria Blizzard complete a historic season
The Alexandria Blizzard made a deep postseason run to remember and are working to build on it going forward.
ALEXANDRIA - The 2022-23 season will go down in the history books for the Alexandria Blizzard NA3HL hockey team.
For the first time ever, the Blizzard made it to the Fraser Cup Championship Tournament in St. Peters, Missouri, and made memories in the process.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Alexandria head coach Jeff Crouse said. "The league did an awesome job. It was great exposure for our kids, which at the end of the day, that's what this is all about was about the players, and so the league did a very good job with that."
Not only did they make it to the tournament, but they also made a deep run in the tournament from March 23-26, 2026, and made the finals.
They lost to their western division rivals, the Granite City Lumberjacks, 6-5 in the championship game on Sunday, March 26, but are still proud of their run.
"We were the No. 1 seed going in, and we felt some pressure," Crouse said. "We wanted to perform well, and obviously, we did. It was a lot of fun and was great exposure which is what the tournament should be about."
The Blizzard's path to get to the finals was a tough one. They first had to win a winner-take-all game three against the Mason City Toros in the western division semifinals , which they did.
Granite City stood in Alexandria's path next, and Alexandria took care of business by sweeping the top-seeded team in the division finals to punch a ticket to the Fraser Cup Championship Tournament (Granite City made it as a wild card team).
The Blizzard defeated the Texas Brahmas, 4-1, on Thursday, March 23, and the Granite City Lumberjacks, 3-1, on Friday, March 29, to get to the semifinals. On Saturday, the Blizzard defeated the Oregon Tradesmen, 3-2, in the semifinals.
"We had great depth in the playoffs," Crouse said. "We had to travel a lot against Mason City; there was great intensity against Granite City and long bus rides to the tournament in Missouri. We rolled everything pretty much throughout the tournament and the throughout the playoffs. Knowing I had two very good goaltenders was key too."
This season was the first time in the new Blizzard team history (11 seasons) that they won multiple playoff series, and they had only won one playoff series in team history before this (2019).
Throughout this run in the postseason and the latter stages of the regular season, assistant coach Jon Crouse said that the support for the Blizzard from the Alexandria community was huge.
"It was unbelievable," Jon Crouse said. "I think it reinvigorated the town and the community and their interest level in the Blizzard. The last two years haven't been that great. I saw people at the games I hadn't seen in years, and down at the Fraser Cup, I got texts from people who had never texted me about Blizzard hockey. It was very special for the guys to see that kind of community support, and it was nice."
In the championship tournament, Sean Kenny led the Blizzard in points with five (all assists), while Ryan Hadland and Matt McIntyre had four points (three goals and one assist for Hadland and two goals and two assists for McIntyre). Kenny's five points were the second-highest individual total in the tournament.
Hadland and Johnson were named to the 2023 all-tournament team after their showings at the tournament.
Hadland led the team in scoring in the regular season with 70 (11th best in the league). He had 32 goals and 38 assists this season, both of which were team highs.
"Ryan had a pretty special season," Jon Crouse said. "He always did everything that we asked him to do. He never complained and never batted an eye when he got when we pushed on him to do more and more. It's pretty special. When you play in our division, 70 points is pretty much as good as 100 anywhere else, so pretty special season for him. For Wyatt, it's the same thing. I knew I could rely on him all season, and for the three years he's been here. He's gotten better every year and is just one of the guys he can play in every situation. He's not too emotional out there. So he never gets in over his head with emotions and stuff like that, but at the same time, he leads with his play on the ice."
Goaltender Konrad Kausch was solid in the net for the Blizzard this season as he had a .904 save percentage in the tournament and 2.50 goals allowed average.
In total, this season, the Blizzard racked up 39 wins and lost just 17 losses.
In 47 regular season games, the Blizzard scored 219 goals and held opponents to 118. In the playoff, the Blizzard outscored their opponents 35-21.
"I preached defense, defense, defense throughout the whole season, and last season, we didn't have very good team defense," Jeff Crouse said. "This season, we wanted to get bigger on the blue line and get some big bodies back there. Everybody has to buy in on defense. We sured up our goaltending situation when we brought in Konrad at the end of the year. I'm proud of how we played defense throughout the playoffs."
Kausch had a .914 save percentage in the postseason, along with a 2.35 goals-against average, and he made 227 saves. In the regular season, he played in five games, allowed just 13 goals, and made 146 saves (.918 save percentage).
Kyle Abrahamson and Alex Lamont were the primary goaltenders in the regular season. Both had a save percentage above .900 and a goals-against average below 2.60.
Jeff Crouse said the team was very coachable, which helped them succeed.
Alexandria is hoping to build off of this tournament run.
"I think losing the way we did kind of leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and obviously, the goal is to get back there," Jeff Crouse said. "We just have to continue where we left off. We had a good recruiting class last year. The big thing is to keep getting good hockey players in here, keep recruiting well and keep building the tradition that we've got as of right now."