By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Friday, December 31, 2010
ONALASKA – Coulee Region Chill forward Tommy Miller credited luck for putting him in the right place at the right time Thursday night.
Miller also knew exactly what to do with his good fortune. Miller buried a 45-foot slapshot with just more than four minutes left in the third period, leading the Chill to a 4-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard in front of 532 at the OmniCenter.
Goaltender Aaron Davis backed the win with 40 saves, and Coulee Region beat the Blizzard for the fifth time in six games this season.
Miller's linemate, James Hughes, had the puck tapped away by a defenseman on a rush into the Alexandria zone. Miller was right there and one-timed a shot over the glove of Jacob Meyers.
"We got some bounces; I got a lucky one," Miller said. "I followed my guy and got off a good shot."
Chill coach Garrett Strot credited Miller for paying attention. On an earlier play, a loose puck had come to him and he'd waited too long to shoot. He didn't hesitate when the opportunity came a few minutes later.
"It's a credit to him," Strot said. "The puck was standing on end and he didn't try to carry it, he just shot."
Miller's goal was the culmination of a hard-charging period by the Chill, who were on the attack almost constantly after Alexandria tied the game 3-3 early in the second.
"You can always want to win, but how determined are you to do it?" Strot said. "We kept up the pressure on them and kept putting pucks on the net."
Davis, making his eighth start, made 29 saves through the first two periods and didn't allow a goal over the final 39:44. He also had to stop Blizzard forward Nardo Nagtzaam, the fifth-leading scorer in the league, twice on breakaways and once on a point-blank power-play slapshot.
"The more shots you see, the more focused you are," Davis said. "With Alexandria, if it's Nardo or (Steve) Zierke, you usually look up and know it's them coming. I just had to compose myself."
The Chill scored 28 seconds into the game when Lucas Dillon swatted in a rebound through a tangle in front of Meyers. The teams traded goals after that, with Brent Bain scoring twice for the Blizzard and Jake Useldinger and David Ripple for Coulee Region.
Alexandria's special teams units, which both ranked in the top 10 of the NAHL, were as advertised. The Blizzard went 2-for-7 on the power play and held the Chill to 1-for-9. Michael Pieper tied it for the Blizzard 16 seconds into the second period.
Coulee Region had a superb chance to break the tie early in the third when Alexandria was called for three penalties in a 2½-minute span but couldn't capitalize. The Chill kept coming and got a break when the Blizzard had a goal waved off at 14:49 of the third.
Coulee Region hosts Janesville today and Saturday to finish a set of three games in three days.
Tribune's Three stars: 1. Tommy Miller, F, Coulee Region Chill. Buried game-winning goal with 4:07 left in third period; 2. Aaron Davis, G, Coulee Region Chill. 40 saves; 3. Brent Bain, F, Alexandria, Two goals.