The Steele County Blades battled the Dells Ducks in a pair of tightly contested games at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna Friday and Saturday. The Ducks escaped town with 2-0 and 2-1 victories. The Blades close their season with a makeup game at 7 pm Monday, February 18 versus the Rum River Mallards.

In Friday's series opener, Ducks' leading-scorer Stone Stelzl scored late in the first period with assists from Richardson and Phillips. That score stood until an empty net goal by Beckett Patten in the closing minute of the third period when the Blades pulled goalie Nick Konkel for an extra attacker.

Ben Vutci earned the shutout for the Ducks. The Dells out shot the Blades 23-17 Friday. The Blades along with Owatonna's Youth 1st program and Jostens hosted a Hearts and Hockey night with a big crowd packing Dudley Otto Rink.

In Saturday's rematch, the Ducks scored a shorthanded goal midway through the first period when Alec Scarsella made an aggressive play in the offensive zone, grabbed control of the puck and fired it on Blades' goalie Brendan Crayne who made the save. Giovanni Mueller was there for the rebound and a 1-0 lead for the visitors.

The score stayed that way through the second period. In the third, the Ducks pulled off a similar play while on the penalty kill. Connor Aguilar came up with the puck behind the Blades' net and found Spencer Butler crashing up the slot for a quick shot and a 2-0 lead at 1:23 of the third.

The Blades got on the board at 10:50 of the period off a blast from the point. Altair Amanzhol got his sixth goal of the season with assists from Joona Kokko and Zack Miceli. Steele County out shot the Dells 27-22. There was a steady stream of players entering the penalty box with 16 combined penalties between the teams. The Ducks won three-out-of-four in the head-to-head series.

Steele County closes its season Monday night February 18 with a makeup game against Rum River. The Mallards are 3-0 against the Blades this season, including a 6-2 on Valentine's Day.

The game will be the final junior hockey game for several Blades' players who age-out including Jake Freise, Brian Romero, Zak Von Ruden, Josh Crandall, Miceli, Antonio Najera, Zach Gruhn, Matt Colagiovanni and Kaleb Combs. The team saluted their billet families during Saturday night's game.

Also read: Owatonna High School boys' hockey will open the playoffs on the road but have a favorable match up against Rochester Century. The Huskies dropped a pair of one-goal games against the Big Nine champion Panthers this season. The teams play Thursday, February 21 at Graham Arena in Rochester in the Section 1AA quarterfinals. The winner advances to the semifinals Saturday at the Recreation Center in Rochester.

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