22 in 22 Series: Alexandria Blizzard
August 16, 2013
The 22 in 22 series features an in-depth look into all 22 teams in the NA3HL for the 2013-14 season, with a new team being highlighted daily, leading all the way up until the start of the regular season on Saturday, September 7th as four NA3HL teams take to the ice on Opening Night.
22 in 22 will go in-depth into each NA3HL team and will include interviews with all 22 head coaches in the NA3HL, as they provide fans with their expectations and outlook for the 2013-14 season, including taking a look at their roster and their strengths as a team for the upcoming season.
It will also take a look back on the 2012-13 season and how each team fared and what they accomplished. Best of all, 22 in 22 is done to provide the fans of the NA3HL with an inside look at their favorite team and what to expect.
Head Coach: Jeff Crouse
2012-13 Record: 31-15-0-2, 64 Points (3rd, West Division)
2012-13 Leading Scorer: Ian Ecklund (33 G, 38 A, 71 P, +44)
Playoffs: Eliminated in the West Division Semi-Finals by Granite City, 3-1
2013-14 Division: West
First Regular Season Game: Sat. September 21st, 2013 7:30 PM at Granite City
Home Opener: Sat. October 12th, 2013, 7:10 PM vs. Granite City at Runestone Community Center
The transition from the North American Hockey League (NAHL) to the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL) for the Alexandria Blizzard in year one had its ups and downs, but the Blizzard had a good first season as a member of the NA3HL.
Sporting a 31-15-0-2 record, the Blizzard ended up 3rd in the West Division earning them a spot in the playoffs where they lost in the Division Semi-Finals to Granite City, 3-1. The team was led offensively by NA3HL 1st Team All-Star and Bismarck Bobcat tender, Ian Ecklund, who scored 77 points during the season. The city of Alexandria did not miss a beat supporting their Blizzard throughout the season ranking 2nd in attendance in the NA3HL, averaging over 600 fans a game.
In the second half of the 2012-13 season, the Blizzard amassed a record of 14-5-1 in the final months of the regular season. The strong finish was not lost on Head Coach Jeff Crouse who acknowledged his teams early season struggles.
“From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, it was night and day for us,” said Crouse. “We were very inconsistent to begin the season, but by the end we got it figured out and played great in the series against Granite City.”
The Blizzard got off to some early troubles because of a short off-season, but as the season went on the team got stronger. They even boasted two wins in the second half of the season against defending national champion North Iowa Bulls, a strong West division rival.
Coach Crouse emphasized that the Bulls are not the only rivals Alexandria has to worry about. “The whole division is one big rivalry, which is great for the league, the players and especially the fans,” said Crouse. Crouse noted that the connections between the teams make for even better rivalries. Those connections include his new assistant coach John Crouse, who played for the North Iowa Outlaws in the North American Hockey League and Granite City Head Coach Brad Willner, who previously coached Alexandria when they were apart of the NAHL.
Expectations are extremely high in Alexandria following their late season run last year. Returning a number of experienced forwards, the Blizzard will be extremely deep up front, which Crouse sees as a major advantage over the beginning of last year. On defense Coach Crouse looked towards the NA3HL draft for help and was happy with what he got in return.
“We were fortunate enough to draft some experience on the blue line,” Crouse said of his draft picks. “Whether it was in the NA3HL or other Tier III leagues, we will have some veteran players back there.” Coach Crouse summed up his squad by saying, “Overall, I believe we are a much deeper all around team.”
From the beginning of the season Alexandria will be a force in the division and are planning on uprooting the current teams atop the West division. In addition to trying to get to the top of the West division Coach Crouse had bigger plans in mind. “We want to win the NA3HL championship and then gain an opportunity to win a National Championship. Those are the expectations at the start of the season.”
Building on the success of their late season push last year, those expectations may just be what will push Alexandria to the next level during the 2013-14 season.
Next up in the 22 in 22 series: Battle Creek Revolution