After each home game this season, the Alexandria Blizzard exit the ice to a swarm of kids looking for high-fives and fist-bumps. When forward Brandon Connett left the ice for the final time this season after falling to the North Iowa Bulls 5-1, he took a long look at the kids and shouted, “Thank you guys for all of your support this season.”
The Bulls completed the series sweep Saturday night, effectively ending the cinderella-esque run the Blizzard made at the tail end of the season.
“Honestly, we weren’t even supposed to be here,” forward Riley Scanlon said. “We were snowballing at one point and fighting to make the playoffs. We did all we could do. We are just so thankful for everybody who came out and supported us all year long.”
From the drop of the puck, North Iowa had the upper hand. After scoring four unanswered goals, it would take a comeback even the Blizzard weren’t capable of making to keep their season alive.
“I told them we needed to get it to 4-2 by the end of the second period to give us a chance,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “I thought we showed a lot of fight down the stretch but it was too little, too late. That’s hockey sometimes.”
The Blizzard found themselves in a hole once again after falling to North Iowa 3-1 on Friday night. Crouse was still sour about the way game one turned out.
“I thought last night’s game was there for the taking and we made some mistakes that cost us,” Crouse said. “Couple bounces go our way and we are playing tomorrow.”
Regardless of how their season ended, the Blizzard players are proud of what they were able to accomplish.
“We were so banged up this weekend. I think Granite City took a lot more out of us than I thought,” Crouse said. “What these guys were able to do was fun to watch this year. I think the guys who are coming back can learn from what this feels like.”
Even though Scanlon played his last junior hockey game, he still has high hopes for Alexandria come next season.
“I think these guys are going to be really good,” Scanlon said. “Look at what we were able to do this year. It was special and a lot of fun to be a part of. I think that’s only going to make the guys better that come back next year.”
Scanlon played high school hockey in Little Falls before finding himself as a depth forward for the Blizzard last year. After two seasons of wearing the navy jersey, he was happy with his decision to play junior hockey.
“I had a blast, man,” Scanlon said. “Alexandria is the best place to play junior hockey. The people that come out and watch us were so awesome. I loved it here.”
NORTH IOWA 2 2 1 - 5
ALEXANDRIA 0 0 1 - 1
SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- North Iowa- Nick Johnson (Joey Petronack, Jordan Roo) 2:45; North Iowa- Jack Giddings (Nick Johnson, Jordan Roo) 7:11;
SECOND PERIOD- Brendan Studioso (Jarod Blsckowaik, Jimmy McDermott) 9:22; North Iowa- Nick Bowlin (Matt Dahlseide, Brendan Studioso) 15:53;
THIRD PERIOD- Alexandria- Jack Powell (Joe Dokken) power play, 9:10; North Iowa- Carter Wagner (Jimmy McDermott, Konnor Carlson) power play, 15:31;
PENALTIES- North Iowa- 8 minutes on 4 infractions; Alexandria- 32 minutes on 8 infractions;
GOALTENDING- North Iowa- Dysen Skinner, W, 32 saves, 1 goal allowed; Alexandria- Ville Hyttinen, L, 22 saves, 4 goals allowed, Alexandria- Kyle Hayden, 11 saves, 1 goal allowed.