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Chill beat Janesville, lead Central Division by two with four to go

By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Sunday, March 20, 2011    

ONALASKA — Now that the Coulee Region Chill have secured the prestigious Milk Can Trophy, they can put all their energy into winning the NAHL Central Division title.

The Chill rallied from a two-goal deficit for the second night in a row Saturday and beat Janesville 5-2 in front of 991 at the OmniCenter.

Coulee Region won the season series 5-2-1 against the Jets, the league’s only other Wisconsin team, and celebrated by skating around the rink with the silver traveling trophy.

The Chill have a lot more work to do before they can add a division title, much less a Robertson Cup, to their trophy case. 

For now, Coulee Region (32-17-5) is alone in first place in the Central with 69 points, two ahead of Owatonna with four games remaining.

Chill goaltender Paul Moberg, who endured a 15-win campaign last season in North Iowa, is enjoying the ride.

“Last year, I couldn’t wait to go home,” Moberg said. “This year, I can’t wait for the playoffs.”

Moberg was brilliant after spotting the Jets a 2-0 lead in the first period. He finished with 41 saves, keeping Janesville off the scoreboard for the final 41 minutes, 20 seconds of the game.

“Down two goals, all it takes is two shots to get back in it,” Moberg said. “I know my guys can definitely put the puck in the net.”

Chill coach Garrett Strot said his team was “lackadaisical” in the first period both nights and Janesville capitalized to take leads. 

John Olen and Ross Mauermann scored for the Jets on Saturday, jumping on loose pucks that the Chill failed to clear and beating Moberg through traffic.

“We were lazy in our own end, and it’s something we talked about both nights after the first period,” Strot said. “We had to tighten it up.”

Coulee Region started its run of five unanswered goals 5½ minutes into the second period when Jake Useldinger found room on the weak side and knocked in a rebound past David Jacobson (26 saves).

Defenseman Ben Gislason joined a rush three minutes later and converted a perfect pass from Chris Hughes to tie it 2-2.

“That’s the one that got us going,” Strot said.

The Chill scored one more time in the second as Lucas Dillon converted on the power play.

“We looked back at (Friday) night and said, we’ve been down before,” Dillon said. “It’s nothing we can’t do.”

Connor Gaarder scored 3:18 into the third period on a power play, his 24th goal of the season, to make it 4-2. 

The Chill finished 2-for-4 on the power play against the second-best penalty kill in the league (88.3 percent).

Dillon added an empty-net goal — but not before Moberg attempted one first. 

Janesville pulled Jacobson for a sixth attacker with two minutes left trailing by two. The puck soon came to Moberg, who took a step forward and fired up the middle of the ice, looking for his first career goal. The shot got only as far as center ice.

“That was in,” Moberg said. “It would have gone in for sure. I can’t believe they knocked it down.”