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Blizzard bury Becker/BL

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 12/16/11, 2:00PM CST


Four-goal flurry in first period enough to carry WSFLG past Eagles

WSFLG's Jake Swenson turns the corner on Becker/Big Lake's Zach Muller and fires a shot past Eagles goaltender Alex Darsow. Photo by Helen Nelson

Based solely on its sheer zaniness and unpredictability, there’s no league in the state better than the Two Rivers.

In a conference that stretches from Minneapolis to Moose Lake and includes a Wisconsin team that seemly came straight out of an alphabet soup can, whacky is routine, bizarre is normal and there’s simply no way to handicap who might beat who, or how, on a given night.
Last season Minneapolis won the conference title by a point over WSFLG, a west-central Wisconsin co-operative that combines Webster, Siren, Frederic, Luck and Grantsburg high schools.
Minneapolis and WSFLG are the favorites again this season, but in a league where the difference from top to bottom is no wider than a skate blade, teams perched on top of the league standings one week can be cartwheeled to the bottom the next.

Becker/Big Lake's Jason Tonneslan carries the puck past WSFLG's Brandon Ryan, left, and Dakota Linke. Photo by Helen Nelson

Example A of a team caple of such a fast (upward) turnaround is Becker/Big Lake. The Eagles won their first three games this season, matching their win total from all of 2010-11. 

“It’s a new season, new attitude, new atmosphere,” Becker/Big Lake senior goaltender Alex Darsow said. “Everyone on the team wants to win. Our senior class has always been really determined, on and off the ice.”

Darsow, who stands just 5-foot-5 and weighs 145 pounds, grabbed national attention last season when he made what is believe to be a state record 102 saves in a triple-overtime playoffs loss to River Lakes.

Matched up against high-powered WSFLG on Friday, Dec. 17, Darsow wasn’t quite as busy – he faced a mere 40 shots in the Eagles 6-0 loss to the undefeated Blizzard. 
“We faced that great goalie of theirs tonight, and he kept them in it for quite a while,” said Blizzard coach Grant Nicoll, who saw his team score four goals in 73 seconds in the first period but was held without a goal until another flurry in the third.
Several times, Blizzard players raised their arms in celebration after scoring an apparent goal, only to discover Darsow had somehow teleported himself from out of the picture to directly in front of the puck.
With Darsow in goal and a much-improved corps of skaters in front of him, there’s no telling how many wins the Eagles (3-2-0) might rack up this season.
“I told the guys, of all 24 games we play this year, there’s not one that we can’t win,” Becker/Big Lake coach Jon Samuelson said. “But we can get beat in all 24 too if we don’t show up.”

Round 1 of 'Border Battle' goes to Blizzard

Becker/Big Lake's Levi Monson sets up camp in the slot in front of WSFLG goaltender Thomas Labatt. Photo by Helen Nelson

 High school hockey’s version of the “Border Battle” between Minnesota and Wisconsin debuted on Friday at the Princeton Ice Arena, with Round 1 – and a custom-designed plaque – going to the WSFLG Blizzard.

A team that draws includes players from Grantsburg, Webster and Siren, the Blizzard beat Becker/Big Lake 6-0 to earn temporary custody of the bragging rights between the two programs with home rinks about 60 miles apart.
The closer connection, and the backstory behind the “Border Battle” trophy, centers around the teams’ coaching staffs. 
Becker/Big Lake head coach Jon Samuelson and WSFLG assistant coach Tony Samuelson are cousins. WSFLG head coach Grant Nicoll married another of the Samuelsons’ cousins.
All three coaches are from Pine City, and Jon Samuelson and Nicoll graduated together. Both played on the high school hockey team.
“Unfortunately this year we didn’t get into a Christmas tournament, which you know you get a chance at trophy,” Jon Samuelson said. “I wanted to make sure our guys had a chance at some hardware. 
“We didn’t get it tonight, but the big one is the last one in the series. Whoever wins that second game gets to keep it until next season.”
Blizzard senior goaltender Thomas Labatt said the ties between the coaching staffs added an element of excitement to the matchup. 
“Me and the whole team were excited to come down here,” he said.” Yeah, it was fun to go out and get the win and bring home the hardware.”
The bigger goal for the Blizzard is to win the Two Rivers Conference championship. 
“That’s definitely right up there,” Labatt said about winning the otherwise all-Minnesota school league. “Making it deep in the playoffs is a big one, too.
“I think Minnesota hockey, they are a lot more devoted to it. It’s a lot more fun to play in a Minnesota league. But Wisconsin teams are good too.”

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

 WSFLG, a co-operative program that combines five western Wisconsin schools, scored four goals in a span of 73 seconds in the first period and cruised to a 6-0 victory over host Becker/Big Lake on Friday, Dec. 17, at Princeton Ice Arena.

Anthony Dietmeier, Bryce Ryan, Jake Swenson and Kyle Roberts were the first-period goal scorers for the Blizzard. Dietmeier ignited the onslaught 6 mintues, 47 seconds into the opening period and Roberts finished the flurry at the 8-minute mark.
Dietmeier also scored in the third period as the unbeaten Blizzard (6-0-0) notched two goals to take the six-goal lead and force a running clock. 
The loss was the second straight for the Eagles (3-2-0), who already have matched their win total from last season.
Thomas Labatt made 19 saves to earn the shutout. Becker/Big Lake goaltender Alex Darsow finished with 34 saves.

1. Anthony Dietmeier, WSFLG
A senior forward, Deitmeier opened and closed the scoring. His goal early in the first period sparked a four-goal Blizzard outburst in span of just 1:13. Deitmeier’s goal early in the third put the Blizzard ahead by six and forced a running clock the rest of the way. 

The 6-foot-2 senior goaltender wasn’t tested often, but he managed to keep his head in the game despite long stretches of play in the Becker/Big Lake end. Labatt did his best work in the third period, when he made 12 of his 21 saves and didn’t give the Eagles any second-chance opportunities.
The 5-foot-5, 145-pound Darsow might not have been at his best, but he made 40 saves and repeatedly flashed the form that allowed him to make an astounding 102 saves in a playoff game last season.

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