Blizzard win division battle against WarHawks
After a slow start, the Alexandria Blizzard found a way to beat Willmar’s goaltender Lukas Haugen and win its second game of the weekend.
After five straight weekend splits, the Blizzard finally broke through and won both home games on Friday and Saturday. Alexandria beat Willmar 3-1 in a West Division battle.
“The good thing about our splits was we were getting three points in our losses because we lost in overtime,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “I told them that this is the weekend we need to start to get things rolling at home. We want to make the (Runestone Community Center) a place where people know they’re in for a tough night. This was a step in the right direction.”
The WarHawks controlled the game for a majority of the third period after Dallas Duckson went to the box for a double-minor high sticking penalty.
“We spent six minutes in the first period on the penalty kill,” Crouse said. “I thought our kill was fine, but it’s hard to get the chances you want. I thought we got going at the end of the period, which carried over into the second.”
Just after the halfway point of the game, Chayse Haberman scored to give the Blizzard a 1-0 lead. Alexandria kept pushing the pace but was unable to crack Haugen before the period ended.
Early in the third, Alex Heidenreich doubled the Blizzard’s lead.
“I hadn’t scored in a while. It felt good to get that monkey off my back,” Heidenreich said.
Jake Santarelli cut Alexandria’s lead in half midway with just over 10 minutes remaining. However, Blizzard goaltender Ville Hyttinen made his presence known by shutting the door the rest of the game. He finished his night with 34 saves.
“He’s been a wall back there,” Heidenreich said. “It gives us more confidence when we have guys play like that. We can pinch and play more aggressive, and feel confident about that.”
Dylan Carlson buried an insurance goal with under two minutes remaining to clinch the win. Alexandria is 10-5-2-1 and third in the division. Willmar is currently in fifth with an 8-8-1-1 record.
One of the challenges that the Blizzard has to face is the loss of some top players. With the Alexandria high school hockey season starting, guys like Caleb Strong, Joe Westlund and Joe Gronholz won’t be in the lineup.
“Compared to years past, these guys that fill the holes for the high school kids have already seen some playing time,” Crouse said. “It goes to show how much depth we have as a team this year. You look at the guys that scored tonight, and all of them have played on the third or fourth line at some point. We use four lines more than any other team in our division.”
Willmar is a team that is looking to steal one of the four playoff spots out of the West. To do that, they will rely on Haugen to play like he has been all season.
“He made a lot of really good saves tonight,” Crouse said. “He’s the guy that beat us earlier this year and has kept them in a lot of games. They’re a talented team that’s going to make this division a lot more interesting.”
On Friday night, the Blizzard beat the Breezy Point North Stars (4-16-1-0) 7-3 at the RCC. Alexandria is on a three-game win streak heading into two more divisional games next weekend against New Ulm (8-5-2-1) and North Iowa (17-3-1-0).
“It’s a long season, but we need to take advantage of when we can play at home,” Heidenreich said. “We’ll have a good week of practice and try to come out with two more wins next weekend.”
WILLMAR 0 0 1 – 1
ALEXANDRIA 0 1 2 – 3
SCORING- SECOND PERIOD- Alexandria- Chayse Haberman (Michal Trejbal, Kobe Kitagawa) 9:52; THIRD PERIOD- Alexandria- Alex Heidenreich (Brandon Connett, Jack Taylor) 1:42 Willmar- Jake Santarelli (unassisted) 9:33; Alexandria – Dylan Carlson (Cole Jacobs) 18:43; PENALTIES- Alexandria- 6 minutes on 3 infractions; Willmar- 4 minutes on 2 infractions; GOALTENDING- Alexandria- Ville Hyttinen, W, 34 saves, 1 goal allowed; Willmar- Lukas Haugen, L, 35 saves, 3 goals allowed