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Chill drop home opener to Bismarck

 By JOEL BADZINSKI | La Crosse Tribune

ONALASKA — Coulee Region Chill leading scorer Mac Jansen made his best move, slid the puck under goaltender Bryan Nies and started to celebrate.

Except it wasn't a goal.

So it went for Coulee Region on Friday in its home opener.

Nies made 28 saves, including a brilliant pad stop on Jansen's second-period breakaway, and the Bismarck Bobcats smothered the Chill 6-1 in front of an announced crowd of 476 at the OmniCenter.

“It was a tough offensive night,” Jansen said. “We couldn’t get anything going.”

The Chill were playing on home ice for the first time since a playoff loss to the St. Louis Bandits on April 13.

In the off-season, franchise ownership changed hands from a group led by Mark Motz to Kevin and Michelle Bryant, who hired John Hamre as the team's third coach in three seasons.

There was not much to celebrate Friday.

Coulee Region dominated the first nine minutes of the game, outshooting the Bobcats 4-0.

Bismarck turned the momentum around quickly and for good when Filip Starzynski knocked in a rebound at 9:06 of the first period.

It was the Bobcats' first shot on the Chill’s Devin Kero, a rookie who got the start over third-year veteran goalie Aaron Davis.

Kero, who was Coulee Region’s first-round pick of the 2012 draft, made 38 saves.

“I think he’s an excellent young goaltender,” Hamre said. “This was his second game in Junior ‘A’ and it will give him invaluable experience. He made some quality saves, they made some quality shots and we could have done a better job in front of him.”

Bismarck turned up the intensity after its first goal, and Coulee Region had no answer.

The Bobcats took a 3-0 lead on goals by Levi Blom and Bob Kinne in the first period.

Coulee Region had no shots on Nies for the final 10 minutes of the first.

With Bismarck still leading 3-0 in the second period, Jansen, who came into the game with seven goals and 11 points in seven games, came free on a breakaway.

Jansen made a move and tried to tuck a shot under the left leg pad of Nies. He thought he had it, but Nies had kicked the puck away safely and as the Chill tried to regroup, Bismarck got a rush and Joe Giorano made it 4-0.

“The puck didn’t go in,” Hamre said, “and (Bismarck) played whistle-to-whistle.”

After Adam Konchenmus scored on the power play for a 5-0 Bismarck lead in the third period, the Chill finally scored on a slapshot by big defenseman Aleksi Mustaniemi.

The Bobcats finished the rout when Connor McPherson redirected a shot past Kero late in the third.

"We had isolated shifts of good play,” Hamre said. “This is a team that’s developing and we have to be able to be more consistent.”