After a formidable 3-1-1 showing at the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Showcase Tournament earlier this month, the Alexandria Blizzard opened its Central Division slate with a statement, dropping defending Robertson Cup champion Bismarck on Friday, 3-1, on the Bobcats’ home ice.
“We had a tough time with Bismarck last year, so it was great to go into their barn for their home-opener and come away with a huge divisional win,” said Blizzard assistant coach Jeff Crouse. “It was a great boost for our veterans and the rest of the team.”
One of those veterans, Steve Zierke, a 20-year-old forward from Brooklyn Park, Minn., potted two goals in the victory, including the game-winner, with Alex Altenbernd, a 20-year-old forward from Moorhead, Minn., assisting on both.
“Steve is someone we’re looking for to have a huge season for us,” said Crouse. “He stepped up big-time on Friday and showed great leadership and focus.”
Another vet, Nardo Nagtzaam, iced the game against Bismarck with a late power-play marker. The 20-year-old forward from the Netherlands ranks second in league scoring with six goals and six assists in only five games.
“Nardo is obviously a great player, and Bismarck knows that and came after him hard,” said Crouse. “He’s in serious conversations with multiple Division I schools and it should be fun to watch him the rest of the year.”
Of the Blizzard's newcomers, Jordan Nelson and Tommy Williams, both of whom are averaging over a point a game (six in five), along with Casey Purpur, have been exceptional upfront, according to Crouse.
“Our young guys have really stepped up well to start the season,” said the coach.
On the blue line, Paul Ladue and Chase Loken have also impressed early on.
“Those two are proving to be D-I prospects already,” said Crouse.
Between Alex’s pipes, goaltenders Jacob Meyers, Jimmy Kruger and Alex Fons are all vying for time in net (Meyers got the win over Bismarck). Crouse says the trio’s performance over the coming weeks will eventually determine a No. 1 starter.
“Our three young goalies have been great and are battling hard,” said Crouse. “We like all of them and are going to let it play out and see what happens.”
The Blizzard takes to Bismarck one more time this Saturday before opening its home schedule against the Owatonna Express on Oct. 8.
“We’re very pleased with our start and are excited to get rolling within our division,” said Crouse. “With the new teams and all the movement, it should make for a fun season.”
ABERDEEN WINGS: Cody Marooney, an 18-year-old forward from Eden Prairie, Minn., tallied a goal and an assist in the Wings’ 5-3 loss to the Bismarck Bobcats on Saturday. He’s tied for the team lead in scoring with four points (two goals).
AUSTIN BRUINS: Idle last weekend, the Bruins are expecting more good things from 6-foot-3, 210-pounder Jeremy Finger. “He’s a big power forward who’s learning the game every day,” said head coach Chris Tok of the 18-year-old from Orlando, Fla. “He has a good offensive toolset to become a solid Division I prospect.”
BISMARCK BOBCATS: Forward Charley Mosey, a 20-year-old from Prior Lake, Minn., has impressed early on leading the Bobcats in scoring with seven points (four goals) through six games. “He’s been awesome for us,” said head coach Layne Sedevie. “He’s a great skater and extremely skilled with the puck. He’s definitely catching some Division I attention.”
COULEE REGION CHILL: Matt Blomquist, a 19-year-old defenseman from Blaine, Minn., picked up two assists in the Chill’s two-game sweep over the Janesville Jets. He also scored the game-winning shootout goal in its 4-3 victory on Saturday.
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Off last weekend, the Express opens its Central Division schedule on Saturday against the Austin Bruins before playing a home-and-home set with the Alexandria Blizzard on Oct. 8-9.