Blizzard hope to make a good first impression with home fans

The Alexandria Blizzard will have every opportunity to make a strong impression on a curious fan base during its home opener on Saturday night.

The Blizzard will not only be showing off a new team in a new league, but they will be doing it against the defending NA3HL champions. Granite City will come to Alexandria for a 7 p.m. drop of the puck with a perfect 7-0 record. That adds to the excitement level for an Alexandria team that is ready to play at home after seven straight games on the road.

“It will be fun,” Alexandria’s Garrett Skinner said. “I always like playing in this rink. It’s one of the nicer rinks, and it’s just always fun to play in front of your home crowd. It makes it a little easier.”

Alexandria’s Garrett Skinner handled the puck as a senior for the Cardinals last winter. He is currently tied for second on the Blizzard in points in his first season in junior hockey. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Skinner is one of three Alexandria athletes playing for the Blizzard right now. He is second on the team in points with six after scoring three goals in helping Alexandria to a 4-3 record. Jack Wensman and Tom Schmidt are also helping out a young Blizzard team as seniors at Jefferson High School.

“Garrett started off really good,” head coach Jeff Crouse said. “He had a couple games where he settled in. He’s got to get consistent and bring it every single night. If he does that, he’s capable of putting up two, three points per game…Tom Schmidt and Jack Wensman are doing great. I think their production is down, but that’s going to come with time.”

Crouse expects everyone on a young Blizzard roster to continue to progress throughout this season. Most of these guys are just getting their feet wet on the junior hockey level.

“We’re young right now,” Crouse said. “We have a lot of young forwards. Our scoring has been struggling a little bit because of that, but we’ve been getting opportunities. I just think our fans are going to like the way we play the game. We’re a little bit more physical, and I think the overall speed and play of the game, people are going to be very impressed.”

The Blizzard will come into the home opener as a third-place team in the West Division. Alexandria will have a chance to take down the division leaders in Granite City. The Lumberjacks are coming off two of their best games of the season after dismantling a previously unbeaten St. Louis team by a combined score of 12-3 in two games last weekend.

“We’re definitely trying to stack up against Granite City,” Crouse said. “Eventually, once we get rolling, I think with our talent level and the work ethic of our guys, we’re going to keep getting better and better. If we keep getting better as a team, hopefully we’re going to pass up a Granite City or North Iowa and hopefully be the team to beat.”