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Area Boys Hockey: Flyers tie with section foe Alexandria

Little Falls squared off against Alexandria Saturday, Jan. 30

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Dane Couture makes a sprawling glove save Saturday, Jan. 30, for Little Falls in a 3-3 tie with Alexandria at Exchange Arena. Jared Rubado / Echo Press

LITTLE FALLS — If the Section 6-1A boys hockey tournament comes down to goaltending, the Alexandria Cardinals or the Little Falls Flyers could see themselves playing at the Xcel Energy Center if there's a state tournament.

The two teams played to a 3-3 tie on Saturday afternoon in what could be a preview of a late-round postseason matchup.

"Last game against St. Cloud wasn't our greatest," Alexandria’s sophomore forward Tyler Kludt said. "I think our first period was really good today. It felt nice to have that team chemistry and get a few goals. Obviously, a tie isn't what we wanted, but I think we are headed in the right direction."

The first period was Alexandria's (3-1-1) best. After giving up an awkward goal midway through the period to Little Falls' (3-0-1) Matt Filippi, the Cardinals bounced back when Kludt buried a rebound off a shot from senior Josiah Gronholz. Kludt leads the Cardinals with goals with six on the season.

"(Kludt) adds speed to his line," assistant coach Adam Olsen said. "He's usually one of the fastest guys on the ice no matter who he's playing with out there. He's got a great shot and a good work ethic. I've been lucky enough to coach him over the last seven years, and he's a heck of a player."

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The Cardinals would take their first lead of the game on a power-play goal from Brycen Berg. He snuck a shot past the short side of Flyers goaltender Dane Couture to give Alexandria a 2-1 lead.

Penalties were an issue for both teams. Alexandria's 4-on-3 power-play goal allowed them to take the lead in the first before Little Falls tied the game on the power play early in the second. Nicholas Stevens was left alone on the back door for a wide-open shot past the outstretched glove of Alexandria goalie Chris Loken.

"We need to have better discipline," Kludt said. "If we move our feet more, we won't take as many stupid penalties. We were positive on the bench most of the game, but it brought the team down when we had to kill off those penalties. Little Falls has a really good power play, so they're going to capitalize if we give them chances."

Junior defenseman Brennan Lattimer regained the one-goal lead for Alexandria 10 minutes into the second period on a snipe from the top of the left faceoff circle. Lattimer was impressive on both ends of the ice from start to finish.

"Latti is great. He's just great," Olsen said. "I think what you can see is how well he skates. If you could see behind his mask, he's got a smile on his face for all three periods, no matter what. If you can put yourself in that place during the game and not get caught up in all of the little things that happen mentally, you're in a good spot. Offensively, he's good. Defensively, he's good. If you can skate as well as he can, you're going to do well on both ends of the ice."

With eight seconds left in the second period, Loken tripped up a Flyer skating back into the play. The penalty allowed Little Falls to control the offensive zone to start the third period. Just seconds after the power play ended, Carter Oothoudt beat Loken on a shot from the slot to tie the game. Loken's penalty was one of eight for Alexandria.

"We don't have a choice but to clean things up," Olsen said. "When you take a lot of penalties, that can start to become your identity. That's not what we are about, and that's never what we will be about with this team. It's an ongoing process. They're high school kids who play an emotional game. One, maybe two good penalties a game is where we need to be."

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Loken's blunder was his only mishap on Saturday. He made 38 saves in the tie while coming up clutch in several quality scoring chances. Couture, his counterpart, is seen as one of the best goalies around the state. He made 30 saves, including a flashy glove save late in the third on a Gronholz breakaway.

"We hear the buzz around (Couture). We've heard the MN Hockey Hub call him one of the best goalies in the state," Olsen said. "You know what? We think we have the best goalie in the state. That's why you see 74 shots on the board tonight and only a few goals for each team. You know it coming in when you play a good goaltender. You have to do different things to beat them. They're going to be on their angles, and they're going to have good rebound control. As I said, we'll take our guy up against anybody."

The Cardinals had chances late in the third period. Little Falls' sixth penalty of the game put Alexandria on the power play with under five minutes left in regulation, but a Cardinal roughing infraction ended the man-advantage prematurely.

Both teams struggled to gain significant zone time in the eight-minute overtime session. The tie is a nice bounce-back for Alexandria after a frustrating loss to St. Cloud on Thursday night. Little Falls is the only team in Section 6A without a loss on the season.

"We had a chip on our shoulder coming in with people saying that they're the best team in the section," Kludt said. "We know we can skate with them now, so the next game should be a lot of fun. It's going to be physical like this one was. Hopefully, we come out on top."

Alexandria 2 1 0 0 — 3
Little Falls 1 1 1 0 — 3

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First period: LF-Matt Filippi (Coltin Johnson) 11:30; Alex-Tyler Kludt (Josiah Gronholz, Jaeger Steele) 12:03; Alex-Brycen Berg (Tyler Kludt) power play, 13:56;
Second period: LF-Nicholas Stevens (Gunnar Gustafson, Robby Helgeson) 5:24 PPG; Alex-Brennan Lattimer (Joe Lamski, Josiah Gronholz) 10:08
Third period: LF-Carter Oothoudt (Hayden Johnson) 2:01
Shots on goal: LF 41, Alex 33
Goalies: LF-Dane Couture (30 saves); Alex-Chris Loken (38 saves)
Overall: LF 4-0-1. Next: Little Falls hosts Gentry Academy 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4.
Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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