Alexandria Blizzard head coach Doc DelCastillo will always be guarded when assessing his team this early in the season.
The third-year coach focuses on progress and getting his players to perform their best by season’s end. After three more wins that moved his team to within eight points of Bismarck in the Central Division, DelCastillo admitted the long-term prognosis of his team is pretty good if it does just that.
“I think the potential is unlimited as far as where we can go,” he said. “It will be dictated on how hard we’re willing to work and how much better we get on a daily basis. We’re not halfway through our season. We still have a lot of time to improve and get better.”
Meyers leads the way
Alexandria is already playing pretty good in every facet of the game. The defense and goaltender Jacob Meyers continue to shine. Meyers was named the first star of the week by the North American Hockey League (NAHL) after leading the Blizzard to wins over Coulee Region (4-0), Aberdeen (4-1) and Austin (5-2).
Meyers improved his record to 10-2-1 with the three wins. He started the week with a shutout on 27 saves against the Chill last Wednesday. He went on to turn aside 58-of-61 shots through two more games over the weekend.
“He’s been very consistent, very in control,” DelCastillo said. “He doesn’t get rattled in the net. He makes the saves he’s supposed to, and he’s stealing probably two goals a night right now. It’s a testament to him and to our team defense.”
Depth on blue line shines
The Blizzard blue line continued to make things easier on Meyers by forcing tough shots. Alexandria controlled the pace of play throughout the three nights. The Blizzard outshot its opponents in seven of the nine periods and finished the weekend with a 116-88 shot advantage.
“It’s a combination of [Meyers] and how our team plays defense,” DelCastillo said. “If your goaltender is good, you’ve got to help him out. There are not a lot of games where we’re getting outshot or giving up 40 shots. That’s a tribute to our team.”
DelCastillo said the guys along the blue line have made it difficult to decide who should get into games. Jordan Krebsbach, Charlie Aus, Vadim Gyesbreghs, Michael Mooney and Rodney Lalonde have established themselves as the defensive core to a team that has allowed just 2.41 goals per game this season. Dylan Zink, Derek Sand and Brandon Parker have also made the most of their minutes when given the chance.
“They’re physical,” DelCastillo said of his defense as a whole. “We don’t have [many] breakdowns. Our coverage is good. When you don’t get outnumbered in situations, you don’t take a lot of penalties, you’re in your own zone and you back check hard, a lot of good things are going to happen. It’s almost to the point where if we score three goals, we feel we have a pretty good chance of winning.”
Offensively, DelCastillo didn’t hesitate when asked if this team was his most balanced unit since he came to Alexandria.
“No question,” he said. “It’s fun when you look in your locker room and say I don’t know who’s going to do it but everyone better be ready because we’re relying on all four lines to contribute.”
Ten different players scored the 13 goals in the last three wins. Krebsbach, Nick D’Avolio and Aus led the way with two each. D’Avolio leads a group of 11 guys who have double-digit points with 18 on eight goals and 10 assists.
The Blizzard will also get a shot in the arm at home against Austin tonight when Thomas Williams returns from an upper body injury that kept him out since October 21. Williams was cleared to play earlier in the week and should add another dimension to an offense that held up well in his absence.
Williams will join a team that went 9-3-1 without him in the lineup. At 14-6-2, Alexandria has worked its way back into the division race. There is still work to be done, but the Blizzard has put itself in a pretty good spot heading into December.
“My philosophy is always if our team gets better on a daily basis, by the end of the season we’re going to be a very good team,” DelCastillo said. “I like the progress we have made so far. Our guys are improving. They’re working at getting better as a team each week.”
AUSTIN 1 0 1 – 2
ALEXANDRIA 3 1 1 – 5
SHOTS – Austin – 9, 12, 9 – 30; Alexandria – 15, 12, 12 – 39; Power plays – Austin – 0-2; Alexandria – 0-3
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Charlie Aus (Seth Ronsberg, Tucker Coborn), 0:58; Alexandria – Jordan Krebsbach (Nick DeCenzo, Gage Torrel), 2:33; Alexandria – Jordan Palusky (Justin Moody, Casey Purpur), 5:27; Austin – Brandon Wahlin (Joe Wahlin), 7:21
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Brandon Parker (Tucker Coborn, Hayden Trupp), 19:26
THIRD PERIOD – Austin – CJ Smith (Jonathan Gehrt, Ilya Arkalov), 2:46; Alexandria – Nick D’Avolio (Vadim Gyesbreghs, Reid Sturos), 12:07
GOALTENDING – Austin – Nicholas Lehr – L, 34 saves, 39 shots; Alexandria – Jacob Meyers – W, 28 saves, 30 shots
PENALTIES – Austin – 18 minutes on six infractions; Alexandria – 16 minutes on five infractions
ABERDEEN 1 0 0 – 1
ALEXANDRIA 0 1 3 – 4
SHOTS – Aberdeen – 8, 14, 9 – 31; Alexandria – 13, 12, 10 – 35; Power plays – Aberdeen – 1-6; Alexandria – 0-3
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Aberdeen – Joe Mottiqua (PPG) (Joseph Sullivan, Lane Mahoney), 18:35
SECOND PERIOD – Alexandria – Reid Sturos (Nick D’Avolio, Jordan Palusky), 16:12
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Charlie Aus (Seth Ronsberg, Hayden Trupp), 0:36; Alexandria – Nick DeCenzo (Jack McFarlane, Gage Torrel), 2:02; Alexandria – Jack McFarlane (empty net) (Gage Torrel, Jordan Krebsbach), 18:54
GOALTENDING – Aberdeen – Marcus Zelzer – L, 31 saves, 34 shots; Alexandria – Jacob Meyers – W, 30 saves, 31 shots
PENALTIES – Aberdeen – eight minutes on four infractions; Alexandria – 14 minutes on seven infractions
ALEXANDRIA 1 0 3 – 4
COULEE REGION 0 0 0 – 0
SHOTS – Alexandria – 13, 15, 14 – 42; Coulee Region – 9, 8, 10 – 27; Power plays – Alexandria – 0-7; Coulee Region – 0-5
SCORING – FIRST PERIOD – Alexandria – Tucker Coborn (Hayden Trupp, Jordan Krebsbach), 18:36
SECOND PERIOD – No scoring
THIRD PERIOD – Alexandria – Jordan Krebsbach (Nick DeCenzo), 6:16; Alexandria – Justin Moody (Tucker Coborn), 11:01; Alexandria – Nick D’Avolio (Reid Sturos), 11:21
GOALTENDING – Alexandria – Jacob Meyers – W, 27 saves, 27 shots; Coulee Region – Aaron Davis – L, 38 saves, 42 shots
PENALTIES – Alexandria – 33 minutes on 11 infractions; Coulee Region – 37 minutes on 12 infractions