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Hockey: Versatile Blackbirds advance to second round

Minnesota Junior
Hockey League playoffs

Second round (best-of-3)

Tri-City Icehawks
at Illiana Blackbirds

Where: Midwest Training and Ice Center, Dyer

When: Game 1, 8 p.m. Friday; Game 2, 7:30 p.m. Saturday; Game 3 (if necessary), 4:10 p.m. Sunday

Updated: April 15, 2014 6:30AM



One thing the Illiana Blackbirds showed last week: They’re versatile.

In a two-game home sweep of the Wisconsin Rampage in the first round of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League Great Lakes Division playoffs, the Blackbirds demonstrated they could win in multiple ways.

After scoring five straight goals to begin the first period on their way to a 10-4 win in Game 1 Friday, the Blackbirds showed their defensive side in Game 2 Saturday night, thanks to goalie Larry Pezzuto’s shutout performance in a 3-0 win.

Pezzuto, a Schererville native, picked up his second shutout of the year.

“He’s been solid in the net all season long,” Blackbirds coach Reid Simpson said. “It’s just a matter of playing a solid 60 minutes in front of him because he’s the type of player who will make the majority of saves he has to make. I’m really happy with him and how he’s played.”

One of the keys to the series was the Blackbirds’ success on the power play, including scoring all three goals in Saturday’s game with the man advantage. Nathan Aloisio scored twice for Illiana after picking up two goals and two assists in Game 1.

In the series, the Blackbirds had eight power-play opportunities and scored on six of them. They even found a way to score while short-handed, with Chad Miller getting one of his four goals of the game while killing a penalty in Game 1.

“We have eight to 10 guys that are extremely talented,” Simpson said. “We worked on things very carefully to make sure our special teams were solid going into the playoffs. When things are going good, you can put a lot of pucks in the net.”

Crown Point grad Curtis Artuso remains red-hot after scoring twice in Game 1. Artuso, who captained the Bulldogs to the state high school finals two years ago, had two goals Friday and has six goals and 10 assists in the last 13 games.

The playoffs continue this weekend with a best-of-3 series against the Tri-City Icehawks. Game 1 is at 8 p.m. Friday at the Midwest Training and Ice Center in Dyer.



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