Extra work on defense sets up scoring for veteran Chill trio

La Crosse Tribune | Joel Badzinski | Thursday, October 7, 2010

ONALASKA – Coulee Region Chill coach Garrett Strot knows all too well that some forwards couldn't find their team's end of the ice even with a GPS installed in their helmets.

That's why Strot appreciates the work Connor Gaarder, Berkley Scott and Zac Frischmon have done in the early portion of this season.

The veteran trio not only lead the Chill (5-0-1) in scoring but in plus-minus ratings, which reveals how many even-strength goals a team has scored or given up with a specific player on the ice.

"You have guys who are high-end scorers, and that's all," Strot said. "These guys play both ends. They take pride in their plus-minus and are really conscious of that part of it."

Gaarder has scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and is a plus-six; Scott (3-3-6) and Frischmon (4-2-6) are plus-five.

"All this success starts in the defensive zone," Gaarder said. "If you're doing your job there and in the offensive zone, points will come."

The three played on a line together for the Chill's first six games but have been split up for this weekend's series at Aberdeen (S.D.) as Strot continues to look at combinations.

"Plus-minus is a big deal to us," Frischmon said. "Coaches, especially at the next level, are looking for players who can play well not only offensively but defensively. It's just one more thing that adds to your game and separates you from the next guy."

Strot insists on defensive awareness from all five skaters on the ice, so Chill forwards know they have to help out in their own end. What Gaarder, Scott and Frischmon have done is take that philosophy to the next level.

"They're such determined players," Strot said. "They've been playing through the puck, not just to it, on defense. At the (NAHL) Showcase, an NHL scout said he'd never seen Berkley work that hard, and he was right. Berkley was backchecking, blocking shots."

Scott, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound wing, was acquired by the Chill from Alaska this past August to add size and scoring punch. His defensive awareness has fit right in, too.

"We all have to earn our spots," said Scott, who scored 30 points and was plus-seven for the Avalanche. "You can't just expect to be in the lineup and play. We all have to go 110 percent here every day."

Gaarder and Frischmon both played for North Iowa, which relocated to Onalaska, in 2009-10. The team went 15-37-6 as Gaarder (minus-six) and Frischmon (minus-34) played their first seasons of junior hockey.

"Everybody says defense wins championships," Frischmon said. "That's obviously what we're looking for. We want to succeed as a team as well as individually, and that'll get everybody more attention and a better chance to move on."

PAUL'S WALL: Chill goaltender Paul Moberg ranks third in save percentage (.946) and sixth in goals against average (1.93) in the NAHL. Strot said Moberg, a second-year junior player, has been contacted by a number of NCAA Division I schools, led by Air Force, Canisius and Michigan Tech. The National Letter of Intent early signing period is Nov. 10-17.