Blizzard upset top-seed Lumberjacks in first round

Hockey: Blizzard upset top-seed Lumberjacks in first round

As the seconds ticked down on the clock at the Armadillo Deck Sports Arena, the thought of losing sunk in for Lumberjack fans. The groans of desperations grew louder as each minute passed. When the clock hit zero, the Alexandria Blizzard made history.

The Blizzard took the final matchup in a three-game series on Sunday night with a 4-3 win over top-seeded Granite City. The series win was the first ever for the Blizzard in the NA3HL. One player in particular was left with few words after the historic win.

“Honestly, I don’t really know what to say,” Brett Meister said. “I’ve never felt anything like this. All I want to do is feel like this again next weekend.”

The Blizzard did what they have done all season long – make a comeback. Granite city scored midway through the first period and got the home fans out of their seats. While some four-seeds would’ve crumbled under pressure, the Blizzard rose up and fought back.

“I think the key to beating (Granite City) is just being able to get their number,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “They do a lot of things really well and it’s our job to game plan against that.”

The Lumberjacks held two leads on Sunday night. Both were answered by a Blizzard goal. Crouse expected his guys to battle back each time.

“We’ve done this all year,” Crouse said. “We know we are never out of it. Even this weekend we were down in the series. They handed it to us 6-1 on Friday night. Our guys knew what it took to beat this team and they did it. I believe we just knocked out the best team in the whole league.”

The game was tied 1-1 before Granite City took its second lead of the game with 10 minutes remaining in the second period. Meister was able to create another spark to tie the game.

“We know we aren’t the biggest guys on the ice,” Meister said. “I’m a third year guy and so is Tucker (Kruse). We need to go out there and lead by example and set a tone. If we play as hard as we do then size won’t matter. It hasn’t for us yet.”

Crouse paired forwards Caleb Strong, Tucker Kruse and Meister together on a line for the first time this series. At five feet, seven inches tall, Strong is the tallest kid on the second line.

“I put those kids together for a reason,” Crouse said. “They are the hardest working line on the ice every time they go out there. They do their job.”

After Meister scored the game-tying goal, he skated over to the Alexandria fans, leaped into the air and threw himself into the glass face first.

“I call it the pancake,” Meister said. “It started last year when some guys got it on video. Now I just do it all the time. It’s my signature celly. I can’t wait to do more of them next weekend.”

After Saturday night’s overtime win, Crouse wasn’t sure who was going to be the starting goalie. He ended up going with the 17-year-old from Finland.

“Ville (Hyttinen) won last night and that was a big reason why he got the start,” Crouse said. “It’s nothing against Kyle (Hayden). He probably had the best stats the entire second half of the season. I think after we lost 6-1 on Friday in this building, they wanted to see Kyle (Hayden) play again. And the loss really wasn’t his fault. I just went with the hot hand. The best part about this team is having the confidence in anybody on the bench. I can put either one of them out there and I trust they’ll make saves.”

Crouse’s decision paid off in several moments. At the end of the second period, Hyttinen made a glove save while a Lumberjack came streaking down the ice on a breakaway. In the final seconds of the third period, he also made a two sprawling saves to preserve the one-goal lead. Hyttinen stopped 37 shots in the win.

Even though it was a road game, the Blizzard fans packed the Armadillo Deck Sports Arena. Crouse was thrilled with the fan turnout.

“I think the overtime win last night got people more excited,” Crouse said. “They were great for us tonight. Every time we scored it felt like a home game.”

After the game fans rushed towards the Alexandria locker room. Meister, covered in sweat, gave a big hug to his billet mom.

“I love playing for this team and for these fans,” Meister said. “They have done so much for me and a lot of guys on this team.”

The Blizzard will hit the road on Friday for the second round series against North Iowa. The Bulls beat the Rochester Grizzlies in three games to advance.

“This week, we are going to get a lot of rest then get back to work,” Crouse said. “We had a lot taken out of us this weekend and I think we need to rest for a few days. But we will be ready. We know this team and we’ve beaten them a couple times this season. It’s about execution next weekend.”

ALEXANDRIA    1 2 1 – 4

GRANITE CITY  1 1 1 – 3

SCORING- FIRST PERIOD- Granite City- Zack DeBoom (Trevor Dummer, Matt Moran) 6:28; Alexandria- Dylan Giorgio (Dylan Mattson) 15:14;

SECOND PERIOD- Granite City- Bailey Sommers (Daymin Dodge, Hunter Schwehr) 10:04; Alexandria- Brett Meister (Joe Dokken, Caleb Strong) 13:15; Alexandria- Dylan Giorgio (Dylan Mattson) 16:34;

THIRD PERIOD- Alexandria- Val Popowski (Brandon Connett, Cole Lehmann) power play, 5:04; Granite City- Matt Moran (Grant Troumbly, Jack Fattum) 19:04

Alexandria Blizzard wraps up a playoff spot with a game to go

Alexandria Blizzard wraps up a playoff spot with a game to go

Jack Powell

 

After weeks of knowing a spot in the postseason could come down to the final weekend of the season, the Alexandria Blizzard has assured itself of a playoff berth with one game to spare.

The Blizzard (28-17-0-1, 57 points) beat Willmar on the road on Friday night, 4-1, wrapping up the fourth and final spot in the West Division playoffs. The win leaves New Ulm (25-18-0-3, 53 points) on the outside looking in after pushing for that fourth spot much of the season.

The Blizzard led 1-0 after the first period in Willmar, thanks to a Carter Rieland goal at 13:10. Alexandria then blew things open in the second, scoring three goals from Dylan Giorgio, Alexandria junior Caleb Strong and Connor Busse. Giorgio, Ike Taraszewski, Busse, Riley Scanlon, Sam Prisbe and Alexandria native Jack Powell had assists in the game.

Willmar scored its only goal from Marquez Ginger at 6:32 of the third, but it was too little, too late. Ville Hyttinen stood tall in net all night on his way to the win. He stopped 28 shots, while Jake Sumner took the loss with the four goals allowed and 32 saves.

The Blizzard has one more game in the regular season tonight, Saturday, and it will be a playoff preview with Alexandria at Granite City. The Lumberjacks ran away with the top spot in the division with a 37-7-2-0 record. They currently have 76 points. North Iowa is a distant second with 65 points, while Rochester (63 points) is the third team.

Alexandria and Granite City will drop the puck at 7:30 on Saturday night at the Armadillo Deck Sports Arena.

Vaughn NA3HL Goaltender of the Month: Kyle Hayden, Alexandria Blizzard

NA3HL announces monthly player awards for January

FEBRUARY 6, 2019

The North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) has announced its monthly player awards for the month of January. The Bauer Hockey NA3HL Forward of the Month is Mike Padgeon of the Binghamton Jr. Senators. The Bauer Hockey NA3HL Defenseman of the Month is Toon De Schepper of the Coulee Region Chill. The Vaughn NA3HL Goaltender of the Month is Kyle Hayden of the Alexandria Blizzard. Only players who are nominated by their respective teams are considered for the NA3HL monthly awards.

Bauer Hockey NA3HL Forward of the Month: Mike Padgeon, Binghamton Jr. Senators

Padgeon may have seen his league scoring lead vanish in January, but still boasted a stout 24 points in just seven games during the month. Averaging over a goal per game, Padgeon found the scoresheet in each of his seven outings, posting a stout five points in four of those and hat-tricks in two. Padgeon’s shining moments came at the end of the month in a pair of tense tilts against Northeast, during which the forward bagged back-to-back game-winning goals as part of a six-point outburst across the weekend. Including an assist in his first matchup of February, Padgeon has now logged 41-54—95 in 38 games this season, good for second among NA3HL skaters, with his seven GWGs sliding up into second place as well.

Runner-Up: Brandon Ratzloff, Coulee Region Chill

Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Misha Akatnov, Missoula Jr. Bruins – Carson Asper, Northeast Generals – Zach Burkhart, Skylands Kings – Dylan Gulick, Oswego Stampede – Andrei Rusakov, Atlanta Capitals – Justin Schwartzmiller, Wisconsin Whalers – Grant Troumbly, Granite City Lumberjacks – Peter Verstegen, North Iowa Bulls – Jacob Wiethaupt, St. Louis Jr. Blues – Drew Wotta, Louisiana Drillers

Bauer Hockey NA3HL Defenseman of the Month: Toon De Schepper, Coulee Region Chill

No team was hotter than Coulee Region during the month of January, with 14 Chill skaters featuring in the top-25 NA3HL scorers last month. De Schepper led all blueliners in that span, posting an 11-game total of 3-25—28 with eight multi-point efforts. De Schepper logged back-to-back three-point outings to kick off the month, before recording his first six-point night of the season to cap off that weekend. The Belgian blueliner closed out his month in style as well, bagging two or more points in each contest during a five-game point streak leading into February. De Schepper has now potted 6-54—60 on the year, good for third in the NA3HL.

Runner-Up: Dinmukhamed Dzhangarashev, Binghamton Jr. Senators

Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Vito Carlo, Atlanta Capitals – Trevor Christopher, Skylands Kings – Mitch Dolese, Louisiana Drillers – Jake Faulkner, St. Louis Jr. Blues – Connor Frye, Missoula Jr. Bruins – Rich Hart, Oswego Stampede – Evan Junker, North Iowa Bulls – Jordan Olson, Granite City Lumberjacks – Jack Royer, Wisconsin Whalers

 

Vaughn NA3HL Goaltender of the Month: Kyle Hayden, Alexandria Blizzard

The Blizzard skyrocketed into playoff position in the West Division thanks to an 8-1 record in the month of January, riding an incredible run of five wins in five starts from Kyle Hayden. Four of those five wins came against opponents ranked higher than Alexandria at the time – including a key overtime win over top-ranked Granite City. In total, Hayden logged 130 saves on 135 shots, allowed no more than two goals in any game and posted two shutouts last month. He finished January with a .963 save percentage and 0.99 GAA, both of which rank third among goaltenders with three or more starts in that frame.

Runner-Up: Jeff Zero, Binghamton Jr. Senators­­­­­­

Honorable Mention (alphabetical): Samuli Aarinen, Louisiana Drillers – Mikael Foucher, St. Louis Jr. Blues – Kavan Johnson, Skylands Kings – David Mulligan, Granite City Lumberjacks – Caleb Sauer, Wisconsin Whalers – Dysen Skinner, North Iowa Bulls – Gunner Snyder, Coulee Region Chill – Ben White, Oswego StampedeEvan Williams, Missoula Jr. Bruins – Quinn Yeager, Atlanta Capitals