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Hockey: Granite City eliminates Alexandria Blizzard in NA3HL West Division Semifinal series

Granite City sweeps Alexandria 2-0 in NA3HL West Division Semifinal series.

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Alexandria Blizzard goalie Joey Greilich makes a save in a playoff game against Granite City on March 12, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA - After a 9-1 loss in game one of the NA3HL West Division Semifinal Series against the Granite City Lumberjacks on Friday, the Alexandria Blizzard needed a win to keep its season alive.

But it wasn’t meant to be as the Lumberjacks cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Blizzard on Saturday and eliminated Alexandria in the NA3HL West Division playoffs.

“Each night, you pretty much have to play a flawless hockey game [to beat Granite City],” Alexandria assistant coach Jon Crouse said. “You got to capitalize on all your chances and that's just something we didn't do in either of the games. We had plenty of chances to score, and we just didn’t end up capitalizing. Whether it be their goalie makes a big save, or whatnot, we just weren’t able to put the puck in the net. They are really good, and they only lost three games during the regular season for a reason.”

Granite City got the jump on Alexandria early with two first-period goals (Brett Reid - 8:05 and Brock Masseth -10:08).

Alexandria’s lone goal of the night came in the second period on a power play. Trailing 2-0, forward Sean Kenny and defenseman Kaden Peterson connected with forward Ryan Hadland to put the Blizzard on the board (12:51).

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Alexandria's Ryan Hadland celebrates after scoring a goal in a playoff game against Granite City on March 12, 2022.
Alexandria Echo Press

“I just tried to get a shot on goal and it kind of hit the frame,” Hadland said. “It happened to go in, so that was good.”

Just seconds later, Granite City’s Andrew Butler found the back of the net as well (13:19) to bump Granite City’s lead back up to two (3-1).

To seal the victory, Granite City’s Kyle Mortensen scored nearly midway through the third period (8:28), which was the games’ final goal.

The Lumberjacks had a 43-31 advantage in shots on goal.

The Blizzard are now heading into the offseason and waiting for next season to come around in September.

Crouse is optimistic about the team’s chances for growth in the offseason and in how many players could come back.

“We're a young team,” Crouse said. “We could return 21 guys next year and we're only losing four to age out.”

After a 0-5 start to the regular season, the Blizzard got on the right track and finished the regular season with a 25-20-1 record and the No. 4 seed in the West Division.

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Alexandria's Sean Kenny skates through center ice with puck in a playoff game against Granite City on March 12, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“Our team has come a long way from where we started the season,” Crouse said. “Because we were so young, we were behind the eight ball a little bit. And guys were learning how to play at this level. There are a lot of guys that took a lot of strides this year and we hope that we can just carry that into the next year.”

Hadland said the team grew closer throughout the season on and off the ice.

“We had a rough start and then really figured it out,” Hadland said. “We really kind of came together like a family. I’m going to miss all of the boys and it’s a shame that it had to end this way.”

The Blizzard are going to aim to improve upon this season and Crouse believes that they can do it.

“Hopefully, they have good offseasons and work on their game to get stronger and faster,” Crouse said. “We’ll have kids that will come in and hopefully fill some gaps and just put some pieces of the puzzle together. We just hope that the kids just keep growing as much as they did this year. When they get back here next year, they're all going to have 30, 40 games under their belts. So there's not going to be that huge learning curve in the beginning of the season. So hopefully, we can get off to a little bit better start next season, and we'll have hopefully a bunch of veterans that can carry us to do it.”

Having been through the learning curve this season is one of the reasons Crouse believes this team can be even better next season.

“Well, I'm excited about the prospect of having 21 guys back. I'm not sure if they'll all end up coming back, but that's exciting in itself,” Crouse said. “The normal turnover year to year is about half the team.”

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Alexandria's Karsten Senden cuts off a Granite City forward in a playoff game on March 12, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Hadland said it is a group of players who built good team chemistry throughout the season.

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“It was really good. Everyone would come every day smiles on their face, just ready to kind of have fun and I really enjoyed it,” he said.

This good team chemistry is something that Crouse said as well.

“The one thing about this team this year is they seem pretty close as a team,” Crouse said. “We were able to play hard for each other. So, I suppose cohesiveness and cohesion going into next year, something to be excited about.”

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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