Preview: Tigers aim for revenge Against Raiders

Published 2:39 pm Saturday, November 21, 2015

Albert Lea goalie Ben Witham watches Mankato East/Loyola's offense Thursday in the season opener for both teams at Albert Lea City Arena. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea goalie Ben Witham watches Mankato East/Loyola’s offense Thursday in the season opener for both teams at Albert Lea City Arena. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Close finishes frequent in Albert Lea-Northfield series

In a series with four of the last nine games decided by one goal, the Albert Lea boys’ hockey team aims for its first win over Northfield since Dec. 10, 2013.

The Tigers (1-0, 1-0 Big Nine) will host the Raiders (1-0, 1-0 Big Nine) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Albert Lea City Arena.

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“Northfield is a tough team, and we’ve had some close games with them,” said Albert Lea coach Roy Nystrom.

From the 2007-08 to 2010-11 seasons, the Tigers were 4-0 against the Raiders by a combined score of 23-8.

However, Northfield has won seven of the last eight meetings, which included knocking Albert Lea out of the section playoffs three consecutive seasons from 2011-12 to 2013-14.

Last year, the Raiders swept the Tigers 4-2 and 3-2. Albert Lea’s last win in the series was 5-1 in the third game of the 2013-14 season.

Nystrom, who was inducted into the Minnesota Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014, is in his 50th season as a head coach, his 43rd with the Tigers. He said the keys to beating Northfield are the same as any game.

“We’ve got to play good defense on our own end of the rink, and we’ve got to floor check like crazy,” Nystrom said. “Everything is the same. There’s never really anything that changes.”

In Albert Lea’s opener, the Tigers beat Mankato East/Loyola — a team that swept Albert Lea in two games last season — 7-2 Thursday at Albert Lea City Arena. Click HERE to read a story about the game and view a photo gallery.

The Tigers had nine players with a point — a goal or assist — and five players with multiple points.

Junior wings Austin Dulitz and Mitchell Evans led Albert Lea with two goals each, and junior goalie Ben Witham faced 27 shots with 25 saves.

In Northfield’s opener, the Raiders beat Rochester Mayo 4-1 Thursday at Northfield Ice Arena. Northfield’s goals were scored by freshman forward Devon Jirik, junior forward Conner Malecha, junior defenseman Zakary Von Ruden and junior forward Jackson Cloud.

Northfield junior goalie Ryan Bielenberg saved 25 of 26 shots on goal.

The Raiders were 16-10-2 overall last year with a 10-8-2 Big Nine Conference record. Northfield beat Red Wing and Mankato West in the section playoffs before losing 2-1 against New Prague, the eventual Class A state consolation champion.

Albert Lea closed out last season by winning four of its last five games, which included a 2-1 double overtime loss at Mankato West in the section playoffs to finish the year with a 12-15 overall record and a 7-11 mark in the Big Nine Conference.

If you go

What: Albert Lea (1-0, 1-0 Big Nine) vs. Northfield (1-0, 1-0 Big Nine)

Sport: Boys’ hockey

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Location: Albert Lea City Arena