By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Saturday, November 5, 2011
ONALASKA — The music in the Coulee Region Chill’s dressing room was cranked to 11 following Friday’s game.
The smiles on the players’ faces were sixes and sevens at best.
The Chill put together a complete effort for a 3-1 victory over the Bismarck Bobcats, one of the NAHL’s top teams, at the OmniCenter, but they knew one game does not make a season.
“It’s like a steppingstone,” Chill forward Tyler Klein said. “We know we can be this good. It’s a matter of if we come out to play every day.”
Coulee Region went on the road to face another league power, St. Louis, Oct. 28-29. The Chill won the Friday game then lost by four goals the next night.
“We’ve had ’em before,” Chill coach Garrett Strot said of Friday wins. “So now it all depends on what we do tomorrow. That’s gonna be the biggest thing.”
Bismarck knocked the Chill out of the 2011 divisional championship playoff round, winning the decisive fifth game at the OmniCenter.
Coulee Region moved to the Midwest Division this season, but the rivalry appeared alive and well Friday.
Bismarck entered the series with the league’s best offense (4.6 goals per game), the third-best power play (23.3 pct.), and an 8-0 record on the road.
All that was nullified by a superb game from Chill goaltender Aaron Davis, who made 38 saves and was 18 seconds from his third career shutout.
Coulee Region killed all seven Bismarck power plays and Davis’ teammates helped him out by blocking 28 shots, unofficially.
“Three hard, consistent periods and the guys didn’t let down,” Davis said. “They were clearing the puck, blocking shots, I can’t ask for more than that. It hurts, 18 seconds away from a shutout, but a win’s a win. That’s all I really care about.”
Klein, who missed time earlier this season with a concussion, buried a rebound of a Ben Jaremko shot at 2:29 of the second period over Tommy Burke (24 saves).
Less than a minute later, Jaremko carried the puck into the circle to Burke’s left, making the Bobcats’ defense rotate toward him, then fed across to Klein, who knocked it in.
Klein scored 19 goals in 28 games as a senior at Wayzata (Minn.) High School. Strot said he wasn’t worried about Klein going without a goal in his first 10 NAHL games.
“I’m starting to get back in the swing of it,” Klein said.
Coulee Region killed five Bismarck power plays in the second and third periods. The Bobcats lost some composure and took three penalties, including a 10-minute major, in a 52-second span in the third period.
Jakob Batcha capitalized at 15:15 with the Chill on a 5-on-3 power play to make it 3-0.
The Chill were counting down the seconds to a shutout for Davis when Bismarck, with Burke pulled for a sixth skater, spoiled it on Castan Sommer’s goal.
“We knew coming in they were a good team,” Klein said. “We knew what we had to do.”
JANSEN INJURED: Chill forward Mac Jansen, the team’s first-round pick in the 2011 NAHL Entry Draft, suffered an injury to his left knee on a collision with Sommer in the second period.
Sommer was called for a five-minute kneeing penalty on the play.
Strot said Jansen will be out today and have tests done on Monday to determine the extent of the injury.
The Chill are left with 11 healthy forwards. James Hughes (broken jaw) and Greg Walton (knee) are at least two weeks away from being ready to play. Pavel Rott, who sat out Friday, has asked to be traded to another team.
“If Jansen is out for a while, we’ll have to go out and get a forward,” Strot said.