LaCrosse Tribune | Joel Badzinski | Thursday, September 16, 2010
BLAINE, Minn. — Paul Moberg’s mouth was turned down slightly at the corners when he came out of the dressing room after Thursday’s game.
That was the only telling sign, at least from Moberg, that the Coulee Region Chill had lost.
The day before, it was a subtle smile to signal a win.
In victory or defeat, Moberg is a cool customer, which he
figures is the only way to approach a challenging 58-game junior hockey season.
“Well, I’ve been here before,” said Moberg, who played in 41 games for North Iowa, now Coulee Region, in 2009-10. “I’ve been in lots of those games. One thing I focus on is making the saves I’m supposed to make, and if you do that the rest of the game plays out for you.”
Some goaltenders are fiery, giving off keepaway stares and chirping at opponents. Some live in their own ritual-filled world (touch left post, tap ice, touch right post, repeat three times).
Moberg’s style is to be an island of calm at all times: “Oh, you want to take a shot? See, now it’s in my glove. How’s your hotel?”
His technique matches his mental approach. Moberg, who is 6-foot-1, never seems out of position relative to a shot, and when there’s traffic in front of the net, he doesn’t scramble around, just drops down his big leg pads and stick.
Moberg, a state champion golfer for Forest Lake (Minn.) High School, was at his unshakable best Thursday. He had a shutout through 58 minutes, 45 seconds and stopped 51 of 53 shots fired at him by the St. Louis Bandits.
Unfortunately for Moberg and the Chill, all they had to show for it was a 2-1 overtime loss in the NAHL Showcase at the Schwan Super Rink.
Figure Moberg for another 40-50 starts this season, with rookie Aaron Davis seeing spot duty, and if Moberg continues to play the way he did Thursday the Chill will have the single most important ingredient for a strong hockey team: a rock-solid No. 1 goalie.
“That’s back-to-back games he’s been really good,” Coulee Region coach Garrett Strot said. “He has to be consistent. Last year, he started great, then went through a lull, then got it back again.”
Moberg went 10-26-3 with a 3.69 goals against average and 90.3 save percentage as North Iowa struggled through a lost winter.
The Chill front office brought in a small army of goalies during the summer camp season to push Moberg.
But you got a pretty good idea Moberg was going to keep his job during the last two days of tryouts, when calls of “Mo-beeeee” came from the arena press box — where only coaches and front office members were allowed — with each save.
“Last year, I kind of played for my stats,” Moberg said. “That sounds bad, but we weren’t scoring goals and the last third of the season we were losing, and I started playing for my numbers, making sure I got 90 percent (saves). I kind of shut that out because it was tough. I was basically playing for this year.”
Moberg is all set to make it a good one. Not only is he playing like a seasoned veteran, but he’s also got a cadre of big, mobile defensemen to protect him, guys like Mike McDonald (6-5, 205 pounds), Matt Blomquist (6-3, 200), David Mylrea (6-2, 205) and Tate Rusk (6-4, 190).
“He’s one of the best goalies in the league and we all know it,” McDonald said. ““He knows what he’s got in front of him, and we do everything we can to help him out.”