The Burnsville boys hockey team suffered its first back-to-back losses of the season.
The Blaze fell 2-0 at home to Eagan Jan. 18 and were downed 4-2 at No. 3-ranked Rosemount Jan. 16 in a pair of South Suburban Conference games. The Wildcats and Irish are also strong Section 3AA squads, as is Eastview.
Burnsville (10-5-2 overall, 5-4-2 in the SSC) is at the Lightning Jan. 23 in league play and take on Edina on the road Jan. 25. Both games start at 7 p.m. The Blaze follows with three straight SSC homes games against Farmington Jan. 30, Lakeville North Feb. 1 and Apple Valley Feb. 6.
Burnsville went into the Rosemount game 6-1-1 in its previous eight games. Second-year coach Steve Beaulieu said the team is getting scoring from two lines and improving on defense as the season goes on.
"I think our team is playing better defensively and we are learning how to manage games and not give the other teams too many great scoring opportunities," Beaulieu said. "Our team is senior heavy and many of those older players know what it takes to be a responsible varsity hockey player.
"We have also had solid goaltending from our senior Evan Wittchow," added Beaulieu said. "Senior defensemen Joey Anderson has also done a great job providing offense from the blue line. We have some big games down the stretch and right now I like the direction this team is heading."
In the loss to Eagan, the Blaze couldn't solve Wildcats goalie Derek Manzella, who made 24 stops to get the shutout. Wittchow made 25 saves for the Blaze.
Eagan scored the first goal of the game in the second period and tallied on the power play five minutes into the final frame.
Burnsville beat Eagan in the first meeting, winning 4-2 back on Dec. 5.
In the loss to Rosemount, the Blaze led 2-1 after two periods play. Senior Korey Bell scored in the first period and senior Grant Ahcan tallied in the second.
But the Irish scored two goals 2:04 apart in the third to grab the lead and then ice the contest with a power-play goal with 16 seconds remaining.
Seniors Bennet Botz and Jayden Glassen and junior Kade Nielsen each had assists for Burnsville.
For Nielsen, it was his team-leading 19th assist. He is leading the team in points going into the Eastview game with 32. Bell leads in goals scored with 14, adding eight assists. Senior Tim Urlaub is second in points with 23 (9 goals, 14 assists), while Anderson has six goals and 14 assists.
Ahcan has seven goals and five assists, despite missing seven games with an injury.
Wittchow has two shutouts in goal, including a .905 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.