ONALASKA — The Coulee Region Chill and Austin Bruins offered up a clash of youth vs. experience Monday night.
It looked like an even match until the third period. The veteran Bruins scored three goals and beat the Chill 6-3 in front of 514 people at the OmniCenter.
“I’m proud of the way our guys are competing and giving themselves chances,” Coulee Region coach John Hamre said. “But we need to finish the third period, and that’s everyone — first-year guys and veterans.”
Coulee Region’s 20-man roster Monday included eight rookie forwards, eight rookie defensemen and goaltender Devin Kero, the team’s first-round draft pick last May.
It has been a tough learning curve so far. The Chill fell to 3-11-4 this season but Hamre believes the team is headed in the right direction.
“I always look for the positives,” Hamre said. “I truly believed when we started the season that come Thanksgiving, come Christmas, we’ll be better. No excuses — we still have to close (out) games.”
Coulee Region had no trouble keeping up with NAHL Central Division leader Austin (13-3-2) for the first two periods.
The Bruins scored 1 minute,
7 seconds into the first period, when Brandon Wahlin buried a big rebound off the first shot of the game.
Ten minutes later, the Chill’s Mac Jansen forced the puck free, beat his defender and slid a perfect pass to linemate Garrett Hendrickson, who tied it 1-1.
Jansen was stopped on a penalty shot later in the period by Jason Pawloski (32 saves).
The teams also traded second-period goals, as Andy Faust, who played in 10 games for Austin last season, giving the Chill a 2-1 lead, and Travis Underwood later tied it 3-3 on the power play.
Austin scored the go-ahead goal on a power play at 4:38 of the third period by John Simonson. AJ Reid made it 5-3 and the Bruins put the finishing touch on the win when Wahlin was awarded a penalty shot and beat Kero (41 saves).
“Obviously they’re a veteran team and this is something we can learn from,” Faust said. “We’ve got to be able to put games away in the third. It’s a process, you have to learn to play 60 minutes and eventually we’ll get there.”