Blizzard pummel North Stars in first home win
After losing three-straight games, the Alexandria Blizzard were in danger of falling into the same rut they fell into last season.
Instead, the Blizzard (4-4-0) made quick work of the Breezy Point North Stars (3-8-1) at the Runestone Community Center on Saturday night to help turn the tide a bit.
“Last year, we had a slow start. To get this win and go back to .500 was huge for us,” forward Brandon Connett said. “A lot of us thought we might start the same way we did last year. We had to make sure to stop that early. It does a lot for the confidence of this team.”
The Blizzard scored three goals in the first seven minutes of the game. They outshot the North Stars 12-0 in that stretch. Connett scored his second of the game with 5:37 left in the period. The second line of Michael Trejbal, Derek Dropik and Connett had four goals on the night.
“They’re just working hard,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “If skill works hard, the rest is history. Brandon and Michael are building good chemistry.”
Alexandria went into the locker room leading 4-0. They outshot Breezy Point 19-5. It was the support the Blizzard needed to help settle the nerves of goaltender Nathan Hadley, who made his first career start in net.
Connett completed the hat trick midway through the second period with assists from Trejbal and Caleb Strong. The goal forced Breezy Point to pull starting goalie Conan Hayton. He made 29 saves in 32:37 minutes of play.
“Chasing a goalie out of the game is something that every team wants to do,” Connett said. “All four lines tonight were going hard. Everyone produced, and we were really clicking out there.”
Three third-period goals put the game away as the Blizzard won its first home game of the season. The offensive explosion is something that Crouse had been expecting after the last three games.
“I was preaching that we need to play for 60 minutes and work hard,” he said. “We did that Thursday night down in New Ulm. We played well in the first 15 minutes of that game, but we didn’t keep the pedal to the metal.”
Hadley recorded the first Blizzard shut out of the year. He wasn’t tested often, but he made the saves he needed to make when they counted.
“It’s huge for him, and he made some good saves in the third period,” Crouse said. “It’s hard when the game is 7-0 to stay sharp. Breezy is going to keep playing no matter what the score is. I thought he looked a little nervous, but he settled down pretty well. For him to get a shutout in his first start is pretty cool.”
Breaking out of a losing streak early in the season is essential, but building off of it to climb in the West Division standings is crucial. The Blizzard will host Willmar on Friday before a seven-game road stretch.
“They’re a common enemy that we’re going to see a lot this year,” Connett said. “We need to beat the teams in our division. It starts by playing the way we did tonight.”
ALEXANDRIA 9, BREEZY POINT 0
SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- Alexandria- Cole Lehman (Cole Jacobs, Joe Westlund) 4:48; Alexandria- Brandon Connett (Derek Dropik, Michal Trejbal) 5:53; Alexandria- Trejbal (Connett, Jack Taylor) 6:36; Connett (Trejbal, Shane Birkeland) power play, 14:23;
SECOND PERIOD- Connett (Trejbal, Caleb Strong) power play, 12:37; Jacobs (Ike Taraszewski, Joe Westlund) 17:59;
THIRD PERIOD- Strong (Val Popowski) 1:53; Strong (Carter Rieland, Dallas Duckson) 12:36; Taraszewski (Westlund, Popowski) 15:05;
PENALTIES- Alexandria- 8 minutes on 4 infractions; Breezy Point- 8 minutes on 4 infractions;
GOALTENDING- Alexandria- Nathan Hadley, W, 27 saves, 0 goals allowed; Breezy Point- Conan Hayton, L, 29 saves, 5 goals allowed; Griffin Foster 20 saves, 4 goals allowed