ONALASKA – It was hard to fault the Coulee Region Chill's offensive effort Friday.
The Chill produced wave after wave of the kind of juicy scoring opportunities that bring fans up out of their seats and the goal judge's finger a twitch away from turning on the lamp.
What it amounted to was exactly zero goals, however, as the Owatonna Express and goaltender Charles Williams shut down the Chill for a 3-0 victory at the OmniCenter.
"Too much offense to get shut out," Coulee Region coach Garrett Strot said.
Williams made 34 saves for his first NAHL shutout. The 18-year-old from Canton, Mich., certainly earned it. The Chill tested him with point-blank chances on the power play, several odd-man rushes and a few scrambles in front.
Nothing went through, and with each pressure save, Williams' confidence grew.
"That gets you in the groove when the other team has scoring opportunities and you have to be ready," Williams said.
The Chill missed more than scoring chances. With a victory, they could have moved into a tie for second place in the Central Division with Owatonna. Instead, the Express (14-8-4, 32 points) took over first place, and Coulee Region (13-7-2, 28) settled into third.
Owatonna had the Chill bottled up in the first five minutes of the game, getting five quick shots on Paul Moberg (25 saves).
A Coulee Region power play broke the spell, and the Chill were on the offensive for the better part of the final 2½ periods.
In fact, it was a major flurry by Coulee Region that led to Owatonna's first goal, which held up as the game-winner.
Onalaska native Nathan Trannel drew a slashing penalty, putting the Chill on the power play. Even after the penalty expired, Coulee Region kept swarming Williams' net.
With defenseman Eric Drapluk in deep on the attack and no one back to cover his position, Owatonna chipped the puck out of the zone, starting a 2-on-1.
Express leading scorer Ben Persian knew what to do, beating Moberg with a shot from the right circle.
"We were creating chances, and that's what happens," Strot said. "They knock the puck away, and all of a sudden it's a 2-on-1. That was kind of how the game went."
Owatonna made it 2-0 on a power-play goal by Marian Fiala at 1:51 of the third period. It set up a similar situation to the Chill's last game, during which they fell behind Alexandria by two goals early in the third, then rallied to win 4-3.
The main difference was Williams, who put the finishing touch on his shut out by turning away Drapluk alone in the slot with 1:44 left in the third period.
"We couldn't buy one," Drapluk said. "Sometimes it doesn't go your way and you've got to get through it. We didn't get some bounces, but their goalie played a hell of a game."
Nick Widing's empty-net goal with 17 seconds left closed it out.
The Chill were shut out for the second time this season. They lost their home opener to Aberdeen 3-0 on Oct. 29.
"You've got to put your scoring chances away when you get them," Strot said.
UP NEXT: Chill at Alexandria, 7:30 p.m. Friday