The Alexandria boys hockey team got a decisive win in its young season.
Before the Thanksgiving break, the Cardinals (2-1) traveled to Little Falls (2-1) and beat the Flyers 3-1 in their first Section 6A game on Tuesday night.
“This is a huge win for us,” head coach Ian Resch said. “You can win the games outside of your section and learn a lot about yourself, but every section game is important. These games mean a lot when those section meetings come around at the end of the season. Tonight was Little Falls’ home opener. I thought they would come out with a lot of energy, and they did. Our guys did a good job of matching that.”
Ryan Buckallew scored the first goal of the game early in the first period to put Little Falls up 1-0. However, the sloppiness of the Flyers began to backfire.
The Cardinals found themselves with an excellent chance to even the score with a 5-on-3 advantage. After the first penalty expired, Joe Westlund tied the game with assists from Derek Pesta and Andrew Revering.
“We’ve scored a power-play goal in each of the first three games,” Resch said. “We are just keeping it simple. It’s about moving the puck well, getting traffic in front and guys jumping on rebounds. If we keep it simple like that, we’ll get rewarded.”
It looked as if Little Falls took another lead midway through the period on a shot from the point that found the back of the net. A Flyers’ stick caught Alexandria goaltender Landyn James up high, and the goal was waved off.
The no-goal call was a turning point in the first period as the high-sticking infraction sent the Cardinals on the power play. Westlund scored his second goal of the night to put Alexandria up 2-1.
With under two minutes to play before the intermission, sophomore Brycen Berg scored his first varsity goal. Alexandria went into the locker room with a 3-1 lead.
Little Falls had chances to score in the second period. They had two power plays and hit two posts but came up empty-handed.
“They never quit. Little Falls played a good, physical game,” Resch said. “Our guys kept grinding to match their intensity. I thought there was going to be more scoring after that first period, but it didn’t work out like that.”
Late in the third period, it looked as if Westlund had a hat trick. He tipped in a deflected shot, but the goal was waved off because he was in the goal crease. His two goals on the night increase his team-leading total to four.
“He’s only a junior, but he’s one of the guys we are looking for to give us leadership and scoring,” Resch said. “We lost a lot of scoring from last year. Guys like him, Caleb Strong and Derek Pesta are being asked to step up, and they have.”
James got his first win of the year with 23 saves in net. Dane Couture made 20 saves for the Flyers in the loss.
Alexandria was without three seniors on Tuesday night. Matthew Carlsen, Shane Birkeland and Joe Bigger were out with injuries. Despite losing some big names on the roster, Resch is enjoying what he’s seeing from some young players.
“I don’t remember seeing this many guys so banged up this early in the season,” he said. “It forces guys to step into roles they might not be prepared for. Some of these younger guys have had to grow up fast. When somebody gets hurt, somebody else gets an opportunity. Those guys came through for us tonight.”
ALEXANDRIA 3 0 0 - 3
LITTLE FALLS 1 0 0 - 1
SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- Little Falls- Ryan Buckallew (Gabe Hirsch) 3:14; Alexandria- Joe Westlund (Derek Pesta, Andrew Revering) power play, 8:47; Alexandria- Westlund (Revering, Pesta) power play, 13:22; Alexandria- Bryce Berg (Nathaniel Mulder) 15:05; PENALTIES- Alexandria 8 minutes on 4 infractions, Little Falls- 12 minutes on 6 infractions; GOALTENDING- Alexandria- Landyn James, W, 23 saves, 1 goal allowed; Little Falls- Dane Couture, L, 20 saves, 3 goals allowed