ONALASKA – Paul Moberg was back to his old self and so was the Coulee Region Chill's potent offense.
The Chill went on a four-goal blitz in the first period and rode the momentum to a 6-3 win Saturday over the Bismarck Bobcats in front of a crowd of 705 at the OmniCenter. Moberg, who hadn't played since April 1, made 44 saves.
The NAHL Central Division finals are tied 1-1 and move to Bismarck for Games 3 and 4 next weekend.
"I think we played a full 60 minutes tonight," Coulee Region defenseman Mike McDonald said. "Guys were selling out, blocking shots and doing whatever we could do to get a win here on home ice."
Coulee Region opened the series Friday night with a 6-4 loss. After the game, Chill coach Garrett Strot and players talked about how they'd bounced back from losing the first-round opener to Owatonna to win the next three.
The Chill's game plan was to put pressure on Bismarck goaltender Ryan Faragher early and not let him settle down. Faragher made 29 saves in the series opener. It worked to perfection.
Jake Useldinger beat Faragher with a long wrist shot 2:18 into the first period. Six minutes later, McDonald fired a low shot from the left point that got through for a 2-0 lead.
Chill forward Berkley Scott made it 3-0 at 18:57, sending Faragher (11 saves) to the bench for Tommy Burke.
Scott later added an assist and has four points in the Bismarck series.
Lucas Dillon greeted Burke with a goal at 19:34. The Chill went into the dressing room having played a near-perfect first period: four goals, 14 saves by Moberg and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
"We talked about it before the game; we wanted to shoot as much as possible and get in (Faragher's) head early because he's a good goalie," McDonald said.
Connor Gaarder kept the Chill's offense rolling at 2:04 of the second, batting in a rebound of a McDonald shot.
"It was the total opposite of (Friday) night," Strot said. "We talked about it – this is playoff hockey. You've just gotta bring it."
Moberg, the Chill's No. 1 goaltender during the regular season, started the playoff opener against Owatonna and made 20 saves in a 2-1 loss. Aaron Davis started the next three games as Coulee Region rallied to win the series and Davis got the call for Game 1 against Bismarck.
"My first game, I didn't play bad," Moberg said. "We lost 2-1 and it was a good playoff game. Aaron came in and he played well and we got goals for him. I was bitter at first, to be honest. You want to be a part of those overtime wins, but I was happy for the team. (Strot) told me Aaron was starting Friday and I said, ‘OK.' I understood."
Moberg returned Saturday and the second-year veteran admitted to some nerves. He said the first shot he faced was fluttering end over end and got through his pads but skipped wide.
"I just looked up and thought, the big guy's behind me," Moberg said. "If that goes in, it's a whole different game."
Moberg settled down quickly and didn't give up a goal until 19:24 of the second – the first of two by Francis DeAugustine – and never let the Bobcats in the game.
The teams traded goals in the final 62 seconds of the third. A series that figured to feature tight defensive battles and tight games has seen a total of 19 goals so far.
"It definitely says a lot about our team after losing Game 1 – that was tough," McDonald said. "This is a five-game series, and we're not gonna quit."