Playoffs arrive this weekend for the Steele County Blades junior hockey team. And even though the Blades are the fifth seed and go on the road, coach Nick Adamek is confident his team will do well. The young club has come along way from the beginning of the season in learning the game at the junior level. He says if the team can continue to minimize its mistakes, it can progress through the postseason.

He says "Every game we're in...Our big thing through the year has been limiting our mistakes, to learn how to ride the roller coaster and get off a bad mistake and get going again."

Steele County will play the Minnesota Blue Ox at Coon Rapids Ice Arena in a best-of-three series in the Midwest West Division of the US Premier Hockey League. The schedule is Saturday, March 6 at 1:30 pm, Sunday, March 7 at 11:30 am and, if needed, Monday, March 8 at 11:30 am. Fans will be admitted to the games, with a reported maximum of 250.

Among the keys against the Blue Ox according to Adamek is handling their line rushes and "protecting the front of our net is going to be key. And, conversely on the offensive side, we have to make sure we're really strong on our fore check and getting to the front of their net."

Steele County (23-20-1) was led in scoring by Connor Lee (22 goals-23 assists=45 points), Noah Yerdon (15-27=42), Charlie Smith (13-28=41), and Gavin Ellis (16-24=40). The top goalies for the Blades are Joshua Brown (6-5 record, 3.48 goals-against average, .906 saves percentage) and Joseph Young (4-8, 4.37, .892).

The Blue Ox (29-14-1) had a trio of heavy-duty scorers during the regular season: Michael Clough (27-47=74), Haydon Masloski (22-42=64), and Jake McAlpine (24-30=54). In goal, Vinny Castelletti (17-8-1, 2.81, .917) carried the bulk of the load. The Blue Ox swept the four-game head-to-head series with the Blades.

The other first-round series include Rochester (8th seed) at Wisconsin Rapids (top seed), Minnesota Mullets (6th seed) at Hudson (3rd seed), and Rum River (7th seed) at Minnesota Moose (2nd seed).

Adamek was not surprised to get in a full season, "I always knew we would find a way, but incredibly pleased. It's taken a lot of perseverance from our staff and from our guys...It's been a blast being with this group so far"

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