The Alexandria Blizzard hockey team scored 34 goals in three games last weekend. Brandon Connett had 11 of them.
The Baldwin, Wisconsin native leads the team in points with 67 – 20 more than any other Blizzard player. He has 37 goals this season, which is four away from tying Joe Anderson’s single-season franchise record of 41 during the 2013-14 season. With three games left in the regular season and the playoffs right around the corner, Connett is on pace to make history.
“He means a ton to this team,” assistant coach Jon Crouse said after Friday night’s win. “He’s a leader on and off the ice, and he’s really hot right now. When we lost Ike Taraszewski to St. Cloud (NAHL), he has picked up the slack.”
Last season, Connett didn’t have the eye-popping numbers that he currently has. With 16 goals and 28 assists, his first year in junior hockey was about adjusting and learning.
“When I came here last year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Connett said. “I had to learn a lot about junior hockey and what it’s like playing for this team. I thought I had a good year last year, but coach Crouse came up to me and said I needed to have a better one this year. Now I’m here, and I can’t think about it too much. I need to keep adding to it to get to where we want to be.”
Connett knows that 11 goals in three games won't be a regular occurrence. Like a true leader, he understands when it’s not his night and he can trust his teammates as much as they trust him.
“I can’t score every game,” Connett said. “Sometimes the puck doesn’t want to go in. We have a talented team that can pick up the slack for me when it’s not my night. I feel like we are really deep this year, and it’s all coming together right now.”
The Blizzard (22-18-3-1) clinched the final playoff spot in the West division after taking two games from the New Ulm Steel (29-13-2-1). Connett added two more goals and two assists in the three games, but is still looking at the bigger picture.
“This is what we work for all year,” Connett said. “We wish we could’ve locked up a spot earlier like some of the other teams, but it’s playoff hockey right now. We lost to Willmar a few weeks ago, and after the game, we all looked at each other and told ourselves to step it up. We know that this team is too special to not even get the chance.”
Of the 32 players that put on a Blizzard jersey this season, Connett is one of seven that aren’t from Minnesota. Not only has he embraced the town of Alexandria, but he felt at home from the moment he got here.
“I love everybody here,” Connett said. “Our fans are so great, and they welcomed all of us. When it gets to this point in the season, the fans get louder, and the seats fill up. That’s because they want playoff hockey, and we want to give it to them. I believe we have the best fans in the league.”
While Connett focuses on building another postseason run, he also wants to help the first-year players transition into the role he’s into now.
“We have a core of eight or nine guys that were here last year and really learned a lot from the second-year guys,” Connett said. “Now I’m a second-year guy, and it’s my responsibility to do the same. It’s about teaching these guys to have fun and live in the moment. This is the best time of our lives, and we need to enjoy it while we can.”