March 16 2016 09:00AM
Kalamazoo is still fighting for a playoff spot and had a huge 3-in-3 weekend against conference rivals. The first game on Friday was at home vs. Norfolk. Kalamazoo then hit the road for games in Wheeling and Toledo. I only saw Kalamazoo play on Friday.
I was in Kalamazoo for team practices on Thursday and Friday. Both practices were high tempo. On Thursday Blomstrand and Valk spent a lot of extra time on the ice working on skills like scoring from odd angles. I love taking pictures at practice to catch the guys having some fun.
To add some humor to practice on Thursday Clay Witt fought Evan McEneny. I took about 40 pictures of them laughing while trying to keep balance and pretending to punch each other. One picture does look like Witt landed a punch, though. After McEneny left the ice Witt decided to take on another defenseman for a much shorter but still hilarious fight.
I have to admit that it was weird not seeing Dane Fox on the ice with the K-Wings after he was traded last Monday. I am curious to see how Blomstrand and Valk produce with a different winger. Coach tweaked lines over the weekend to see who worked best with them. Valk was back in the lineup on Friday after missing the previous two games with an injury.
I think after Kalamazoo looked at the standings they did not take Norfolk seriously and did not expect Norfolk to be as good as they are. Norfolk currently sits in 13th place in the East (out of 14 teams). I live right by Norfolk so I see them play more than Kalamazoo and have watched how much they have improved the last two months. I knew Norfolk would come out strong. Kalamazoo struggled to keep up with them – Norfolk dominated the entire game.
In a change from the norm – Witt sat on the K-Wings bench instead of in his corner seat outside the locker room. At least, the next night in Wheeling he got to enjoy the game alone since there is not room on the visiting bench for the backup goalie.
Blomstrand and Valk remained on the 1st line with rookie Justin Kovacs taking the other wing. This was the best forward line for Kalamazoo during the game. This line had the best scoring chances of the night. Valk did not look like he had missed any games – showing great speed and definitely had his game legs under him. Valk had a strong game – though I would have preferred to see him win a few more faceoffs.
Cederholm was in the starting lineup. In McEneny’s first shift of the game, he threw two strong hits. Cederholm then threw a thunderous hit a few minutes later – best hit of the night.
I captured this unfortunate moment of Blomstrand being clotheslined by a Norfolk defenseman… But I still think it is a great picture.
Blomstrand was a bit quiet tonight with only 2 shots on goal – both, nice scoring chances. The Norfolk goalie had a very strong game. Valk scored midway into the 3rd period with a slapshot from the blue line that the Norfolk goalie couldn’t react quickly enough to.
3 minutes into the 2nd period Norfolk had a breakaway from the red line. Blomstrand used his explosive speed to catch up with the skater to get between him and the goalie. Blomstrand made a great defensive play to eliminate the scoring chance.
Blomstrand showed his solid two-way game with another step up on defense in the 3rd period to block a shot with his backside. The hit didn’t even faze Blomstrand and he never missed a step. Later in the period, Blomstrand had a great open ice hit on a Norfolk skater at center ice.
Blomstrand and Valk remained on the 1st PP unit and the 2nd PK unit. McEneny had time on the PK as well. Valk continued with a stronger defensive game. It is very nice to see him round out this aspect of his game. I expect Valk to start seeing more time on the PK as a result.
Cederholm and McEneny had strong and solid games. Norfolk won the game 5-2. McEneny was not on the ice for any of the 5 Norfolk goals. Cederholm was only on the ice for 1 Norfolk goal.
Kalamazoo lost 4-2 in Wheeling on Saturday. Valk scored a goal. All other prospects were kept without points. Clay Witt got the start in net on Sunday in Toledo where he had a strong game two weeks prior. Kalamazoo won 4-3 so Witt earned his first pro victory. Valk picked up a goal, McEneny assisted on another goal, but Cederholm and Blomstrand were pointless.
After only picking up 2 points this weekend Kalamazoo is now 11th in the East – 7 points behind the team in 8th. Kalamazoo has two games this weekend, both at home.