Little Falls makes a statement in win over Cardinals

The players on the Alexandria boys’ hockey team believe they have the talent to compete with section favorite Little Falls. Senior goaltender Ben Allen even went so far as to say the Cardinals are the better team despite losing the season series to the Flyers 2-0.

It’s great that the Alexandria players believe that. You’re never going to beat a team if you go into the game thinking you can’t keep up. But if the Cardinals are going to make good on that statement in a possible third match-up come tournament time, they will have to play a lot better than they did in a 6-0 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday night.

Alexandria goaltender Ben Allen looked up at the scoreboard as Little Falls celebrated one of its four goals in the second period on Tuesday night. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“We just got to get to practice tomorrow and have a purpose,” Allen said after the game. “It’s almost impossible to beat a team three times, so no doubt in my mind we can beat them in the playoffs. We’re a better team than them.”

The Flyers looked like the dominant team in the section through much of last night’s win at the Runestone Community Center. They have a solid defense anchored by senior goaltender Michael Stumpf that allows just 1.5 goals per game. They showed they can also score in bunches with an offense that is putting up 4.5 goals per contest.

Ben Newman set the tone early by scoring just one minute, 16 seconds into the game. He added his second of the night almost four minutes later on a rebound to give his team a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.

The Cardinals came out aggressive to start the second period, but a Mark Anez goal completely turned the momentum in the Flyers’ favor. Anez got behind the defense and snuck one past Allen for what felt like a goal that completely deflated any hope that Alexandria still had of making a comeback. Little Falls went on to score three more times to open the game up in the second period.

“We were just off and they were sharp,” Cardinals head coach Scott Woods said. “We changed our line up hoping it would spark guys, but it didn’t work.  I told the guys I will take the blame for that, and we each need to be willing to step up and improve wherever necessary.  Getting behind hurt our confidence, but if we would have gotten one at the start of the second, the period could have been completely different.”

The Flyers outshot Alexandria 41-25 for the game. Austin Bjorge had a big night for them with two goals and two assists. Newman added an assist to his two first-period goals and Spencer Fenske finished with three assists as well. Allen had 35 saves for Alexandria on a night when he was kept extremely busy in net.

The Cardinals still believe they can be a dangerous team heading into the playoffs. Starting Thursday in Willmar, they have seven games left on the regular-season schedule to put this recent stretch behind them and get to the point where they are playing their best hockey in late February.

“The key to moving on is staying positive,” Woods said. “Outside influences creep in, but a team has to stick together and truly believe in each other.”