Tag Archives: Junior Hockey

LA CROSSE WINS FIRST CENTRAL DIVISION TITLE, ADVANCE TO FRASER CUP TOURNAMENT

It took four seasons but the La Crosse Freeze can finally call themselves Central Division Champions.

Coming into the 2017-18 hockey season the Freeze knew who they’d have a tough road to division glory with. Having a young team and new head coach in Jon Vaillancourt, it wasn’t going to be easy. Consistently it’s been the Freeze and the Wisconsin Whalers vying for a shot at the North Iowa Bulls in the middle of March for division supremacy. The past two years La Crosse had their shot only to come up short.

This year was different even with what was a revamped roster and new head coach. From the first puck drop in September to just 2:03 into the overtime game against North Iowa, the Freeze looked determined to finally supplant the Bulls for their own opportunity at a league title.

And they got the job done.

Coach Vaillancourt has a whole team to credit, including himself and assistant coach Oak Moser. But he can look to veteran goalie Will Graves for his great play in net first on the road in the hostile barn in North Iowa to standing tall in the friendly confines of the Green Island Ice Arena.

He can look at offensive leaders like Clayton Lackey and Thomas Magnavite, both of which played big roles through the sweep over North Iowa.

How about Matthew Francois who scored the overtime winning goal to secure La Crosse’s first ever Central Division title Saturday night?

The entire roster is responsible for the opportunity the organization has to fight for their first ever league title, set to begin tomorrow in Romeoville, Illinois.

For the Freeze, they’ll compete as the number seven seed in the eight-team round robin tournament. The schedule is as follows:

2018 Fraser Cup Schedule (all times central)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

4:00 PM #1 Binghamton vs. #8 Granite City

4:30 PM #4 St. Louis vs. #5 Yellowstone

7:00 PM #2 Metro vs. #7 La Crosse

7:30 PM #3 Texas vs. #6 New England

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2:30 PM #4 St. Louis vs. #8 Granite City

4:30 PM #1 Binghamton vs. #5 Yellowstone

7:10 PM #2 Metro vs. #6 New England

7:30 PM #3 Texas vs. #7 La Crosse

Thursday, March 29, 2018

4:00 PM #5 Yellowstone vs. #8 Granite City

4:30 PM #1 Binghamton vs. #4 St. Louis

7:00 PM #6 New England vs. #7 La Crosse

7:30 PM #2 Metro vs. #3 Texas

Friday, March 30, 2018

2:00 PM Pool A 1st place vs. Pool B 2nd place

5:00 PM Pool B 1st place vs. Pool A 2nd place

Saturday – March 31, 2018

1:30 PM Championship Game

The work isn’t done yet. Five more games are on the horizon for Vaillancourt, Moser and the La Crosse Freeze.

Go Freeze!

La Crosse marches into playoffs as 2nd seed in Central Division

The last two weekends of NA3HL regular season hockey didn’t end well for the La Crosse Freeze. That doesn’t mean all is lost from an impressive 2017-18 campaign thus far.

Head coach Jon Vaillancourt continues moving forward with the NA3HL Fraser Cup Playoffs starting this Friday night in La Crosse. In his first regular season with the Freeze they took a strong step forward, fighting for the Central Division title late into the season, a feat the organization had yet to do since moving to La Crosse four seasons ago.

When all was said and done Saturday night the Freeze finished with a 34-12-1 (69 points) record, an organization best since their 32-15 record in 2015-16. The 69 points ranks as a tie for 9th across the league.

On the ice it was a great regular season from top to bottom. The Freeze also set franchise records for both goals for and goals against with 240 and 124, respectively.

With the playoffs in sight the regular season is but a memory for Vaillancourt’s squad. Forwards Clayton Lackey and Brady Lindauer, who both set the tone this season offensively en route to setting franchise regular season records for points per game with 1.882 and 1.878, will be two to watch when the puck drops at 7pm against the Wisconsin Whalers.

Speaking of the Whalers, both them and the Freeze are quite familiar with each other when it comes to the playoffs; each of the past three seasons the two teams have faced one another in the first round. Wisconsin prevailed in 2015 but it was La Crosse who moved on to face the North Iowa Bulls the past two seasons. If history proves anything then La Crosse, a #2 seed this year, has the edge as the top seed has won each year.

The boys are looking for a loud Green Island Ice Arena this Friday night! Saturday nights contest will move to Oregon, WI with a third game coming back to Green Island on Sunday, if necessary.

Plunkett makes NCAA D1 Commitment to West Point

The Coulee Region Chill of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) are pleased to announce that defenseman Marshal Plunkett has committed to play NCAA Division I hockey for Army in Atlantic Hockey.
Plunkett, 19, is completing his third season playing in the NAHL and second with the Chill. The 5’11/170 lbs. native of West Salem, Wisconsin, is having his best career season on the ice as he has recorded 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 50 games played to date.
Overall in his three-year NAHL career, Plunkett has played in 141 career games and recorded 66 points.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the Army hockey family. It has been a goal of mine since I first started playing hockey to play at the NCAA Division I level and I owe thanks to my family, friends, and coaches who have guided me throughout my career and continue to support me into my future,” said Plunkett.
Plunkett was also selected to and played in the 2018 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament for the Midwest Division team, where he picked up an assist in two games.
Plunkett made his NAHL debut during the 2015-16 season with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. In the season prior to that in 2014-15 he played for the Madison Capitols 16U team in the NAPHL, where he had 8 points in 19 NAPHL games.
“Over the past three seasons Marshal has proven to be an elite player in the NAHL.  Our organization is excited to have been a part of his development and ultimately playing a role in helping him reach his goal of playing at the NCAA Division I level.  West Point is getting a fantastic and talented young man that they will be proud to wear the Black Night Crest,” said Chill head coach Ryan Egan.
*Story provided by NAHL

Four more points logged as the playoff chase continues

For the third consecutive weekend the Coulee Region Chill had a weekend series against the Springfield Jr. Blues.

The first went as planned, sweeping the Jr. Blues at home. The second was a setback with the Jr. Blues returning the favor on their home ice. This past Friday and Saturday night it was both teams leaving the Green Island Ice Arena victorious.

Sitting in fifth place in the Midwest Division, the Chill have been in Springfield’s rear view mirror over the past few weeks, trying to gain ground on the fourth and final spot in the 2018 Robertson Cup Playoffs.

That fourth-place spot has since changed, however. As Springfield skated off the ice Saturday night they simultaneously swapped spots in the standings with the Minnesota Magicians.

While looking at the two points lost to Springfield to end the weekend it may be even more important to look at the two points gained on the Magicians last Thursday night.

Nick Bowman, a recent invitee to the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, scored two goals – including the game winner – and assisted on another in the 4-3 defeat over Minnesota.

Bowman went on to score a hat trick on Friday night over the Jr. Blues as well en route to being named the Midwest Divisional Star of the Week. Joining Bowman in receiving recognition for his strong play on the ice for the Chill was Brandon Koch; Koch, joining Bowman at the Top Prospects Tournament next week, had four assists on the weekend.

This weekend’s matchup begins on Friday night in Janesville against the Jets before the two teams take the ice in La Crosse on Saturday night.

Go Chill!

Chill snag two points last weekend

The busy month of February got off to a solid start for the Coulee Region Chill. Sitting ten points out of a playoff berth they’ll need to continue winning over the course of the next seven games to have a chance for a push in March, the final full month of the NAHL season.

The team they’re chasing for that final spot, the Springfield Jr. Blues, were welcomed to La Crosse last Thursday and Friday night and walked out of the rink with two losses to their resume.

Coulee Region put up seven goals Thursday night with both teams trading two goals a piece through the first two periods. The player of the night was forward Tyler Ebner; a La Crosse native, Ebner had his best night in the North American Hockey League. He secured his first career hat trick, ending the night with a single-game career-high three points.

Friday night’s victory wasn’t as flashy on the offensive side of the puck for Coulee Region, winning 4-1, but was dominated by Emil Zetterquist between the pipes. After saving 39/43 shots the night before he followed it up with a 47/48 saves Friday night.

The sweep didn’t cap the weekend with the Chill having a date with the Janesville Jets, an in-state rival sitting second in the Midwest Divisional standings.

After scoring 11 combined goals the two nights prior Coulee Region scored just one off the stick of Collin Price on Saturday night. It was the team’s lone goal off the power play in which they had seven total chances compared to just four for Janesville. Josh Graziano gave way to Zetterquist for the night saving 27/29 shots.

It’s a 2-1 start for the Chill in February and this week they’re slated for a road series against Springfield, looking to continue to gain ground on the fourth and final Robertson Cup playoff spot.

Go Chill!

Chill snag two points last weekend

Last week was a busy one for the Coulee Region Chill. Just three days after returning from two weeks in Alaska they had to hit the road once again for a game against Midwest Division rival Minnesota Magicians.

The first two periods were back-and-forth affairs, Nick Bowman putting home both goals for Coulee Region with the help of Connor Zilisch. Down two late in the third, the roles reversed as Zilisch scored with the help of Bowman and Marshal Plunkett on their sixth power play of the night.

That would be Coulee’s third and final goal of the night and the last chance for Emil Zetterquist to avoid the loss.

The action didn’t stop last Wednesday night. After playing both Kenai River and Fairbanks the prior two weekends, both opponents found themselves in La Crosse in Friday and Saturday night, respectively.

For the Chill it was a chance to crack the goose egg they came home with, a chance to redeem themselves on their home ice. And through the help of five different players – Matus Havrila, Andrew McGlynn, Gavin Holland, Jackson Decker, and Collin Price – the Chill sent the Brown Bears on the road with the loss.

The win not only came behind a strong effort on the offensive side but also in net; Zetterquist had a strong night, saving 40/44 shots and picking up the win.

Saturday night the offense slowed, scoring one goal thanks to the stick of Jackson Decker. The offense as a whole put up just 18 shots on Fairbanks while Zetterquist looked solid stopping 36 shots in the 1-2 loss.

This upcoming weekend proves to be crucial for the Chill going up against the Springfield Jr. Blues Thursday and Friday night. Down just 12 points from the Jr. Blues and a potential playoff spot, getting four points from Springfield would be a great step as they enter the final couple months in the 2017-18 season.

Coulee vies for rebound prior to leaving Alaska

Typically a sweep will give a junior hockey team momentum. Aspiration to continue the fight. And typically a long road trip will do the exact opposite.

The Coulee Region Chill began 2018 with a sweep over the Minnesota Wilderness of the Central Division. That was prior to last weeks annual journey to take on Alaskan Central Division opponents, the Kenai River Brown Bears and Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

Travel isn’t an excuse, at least not one that head coach Ryan Egan would use for his hockey team. But it is certainly a factor for any teams having to make the trip.

For the Chill it was the Brown Bears that were first on the schedule for their five-game slate. Friday night’s game started slow with Kenai River jumping out to a 2-0 lead after the first period. Andrew McGlynn teamed up with Jackson Decker to score on a power play after a minor hooking call on Kenai River.

In the third period, with the Chill facing a 1-3 deficit, Kevin Bryant scored to give Coulee Region life midway through the frame (Holland; Dabrowski). The clock would eventual strike zero on the Chill’s night, falling behind another solid effort from Emil Zetterquist in net.

Saturday night both teams seemed to find the net a lot easier; after a scoreless first period in which both teams combined for 15 shots, both Coulee Region and Kenai River both scored twice in the second, Jackson Decker and Tomas Vochozka both scoring for the Chill in the last four minutes of the period.

Fast forward to the tail end of the final period. Much like the period before, the Chill were facing a two-goal deficit in the final five minutes. This time it was Connor Szmul and Gavin Holland that found the back of the net, forcing overtime.

In what was a back-and-forth regulation it was the Brown Bears that had their way in the extra period, finding their way past Chill goalie Josh Graziano. The Chill would lose 4-5.

The upcoming weekend doesn’t get any easier for Egan and the Chill. The three-game series against Fairbanks begins on Thursday night and then it’s back to Wisconsin, adjusting back to the Central time zone and preparing for a mid-week contest against the Minnesota Magicians.

Chill begin 2018 with sweep

The first half of the season wasn’t what the Coulee Region Chill was looking for. On the outside looking in for the Robertson Cup Playoffs they knew that a strong start to the second half was crucial.

Now with one weekend in the books, 2018 is off to a great start for Ryan Egan and his Chill squad. On Friday night the chill found themselves down a single goal after the first period but came back by putting up eight goals over the final two periods.

Nick Bowman was the first start of the night, scoring three goals and two assists. Sam Dabrowski and Andy McGlynn added two goals themselves with Connor Zilisch and Tomas Vochozka both adding one each.

Emil Zetterquist started the night out in net and saved 24/26 shots before Josh Graziano came in just 12 seconds in the third, after an injury to Zetterquist.  

While Friday’s contest was won with a bang, it was Saturday night that showcased resiliency and  tough goalkeeping to finalize the sweep.

Through 60 minutes Zetterquist faced 45 shots, allowing just one puck past him early in the third period en route to his sixth win on the season. Jackson Decker and Kevin Bryant put the Chill on the board with their second and third goals of the season in the first and second period, respectively.

Great shots and goalkeeping were key but it was Coulee Region’s discipline throughout all six periods on the weekend that helped pave the way; two penalties were committed by the Chill on Friday night and a single cross-checking penalty on Saturday night.

Over the next two weekends the Chill will be in Alaska: first up, the Kenai River Brown Bears for a two-game series next weekend and a three-game set against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs the following weekend.

Go Chill!

Coulee takes one of three game set

The season of learning continues for the Coulee Region Chill and second-year head coach Ryan Egan. This past weekend the Chill dropped two games to Midwest Division opponents, coming away victorious in just one. They did, however, put up another strong fight.

For the second time this season the Chill traveled down to Springfield to take on the Jr. Blues, a divisional series that takes place three times throughout the season. The first series of the season took place in the middle of November and ended in a 1-1 split.

This time around the first-of-two games kicked off last Thursday night. The Chill got off to a quick start, scoring three unanswered goals in the first 21:25 of the game with Nick Bowman (Connor Szmul, Andy McGlynn), McGlynn (Logan Kon, Collin Price), and Louis Helson (Hunter Canestra) all finding twine.

After taking a 3-0 lead nothing else went right for the Chill who went 0-5 on the power play for the night. Springfield went on to score five times – once with an empty net – to take home the game one win. Chill goalie Josh Graziano saved 36/40 shots.

Friday night the scoreboard flipped. Marshal Plunkett (Matt Hines, Szmul) gave the Chill one in the first to keep pace with Springfield’s two while Connor Zilisch (Zetterquist, Sam Dabrowski), along with a goal from Hunter Canestra (McGlynn, Hines), gave the Chill a 4-3 lead going into the third period. Hines (Plunkett, Dabrowski) scored the insurance goal and put an end to any Jr. Blues comeback with an empty netter with just 24 seconds remaining. Zetterquist got his revenge on the Jr. Blues in this one ending the night with 32/35 saves and an assist.

The weekend wasn’t done in Springfield. The Chill took the long bus ride home Friday night for a contest against the Kenai River Brown Bears Saturday night. Price (Hines) clearly didn’t feel the effects of a long bus ride from the night before, scoring just 26 seconds in.

Kenai River scored the next two goals, taking a 2-1 lead into the final period. Tyler Ebner (Nick Lund) tied the game with just over six minutes left but the Brown Bears took the lead back 11 seconds later.

With under two minutes left, Zetterquist left the ice to give the Chill a man advantage. Kenai River took advantage and scored on the empty net. Price (Bailey Martin, Zilisch) scored for the second time on the night to bring the Chill within one again but it would be too little, too late.

Zetterquist saved 37/40 shots on the night.

The Chill find themselves just two games away from Christmas break, hosting the Fairbanks Ice Dogs Friday and Saturday night at the Green Island Ice Arena. After that they’ll have time to reflect on the first half of the season and refocus for a strong second half push.

Chill will try to rebound in series against Magicians

Holiday weekends can put a stress on any athletes. Every season on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the Coulee Region Chill find themselves on the ice mere hours before enjoying a large buffet of great food with their families and/or billet families.

The odd-off day in the latter half of the week puts a spin on their routine. And it just so happens that Thanksgiving this year fell in the middle of a three-game weekend starting off with the Janesville Jets this past Wednesday.

After a slow first period for both teams Coulee Region’s Bailey Martin (Nick Bowman, Tomas Vochozka) took advantage of a slashing minor committed by Janesville’s Justin Bofshever early in the middle frame to go up 1-0. They held the lead up until the 16:32 mark before the Jets tied the game up at one.

Same story in the third period except this time it was Connor Zilisch (Brandon Koch, Martin) scoring on the power play with Bofshever serving a slashing minor. Janesville once again tied the game and eventually forced overtime.

In what was a very offensive game – Jets and Chill with 49 and 40 shots, respectively – neither team could convert in overtime. Forced into their sixth shootout in the month of November, neither Marshal Plunkett or Andrew McGlynn could pick up a goal as the Jets forced two past goalie Josh Graziano who finished with 47/49 saves on the night.

After the off day the Chill hit I-90 West bound for Austin for a home-and-home series with the Bruins. Coulee Region surrendered two goals — one shorthanded — in the first period despite seeing just eight shots. Plunkett (Vochozka, Matt Hines) made it 1-2 just 25 seconds into the second period and it stayed that way until the 14:01 mark. Austin proceeded to score two more goals, taking a 4-1 lead into the third period.

Coulee Region’s Tyler Ebner (McGlynn, Jackson Decker) gave the Chill a last hope with 7:53 remaining but Austin’s Travis Kothenbeutel scored late on an empty netter to prevent any hopes for a comeback.

Graziano got the call for the second consecutive night.

Fast forward to Saturday. The Chill brought the series back to La Crosse where they beat the Bruins 2-1 just 15 days prior. The contest had little action when you look at the box score; just three penalties committed by each team. And the one goal scored all night came way of Austin’s Evan Cholak with 12:07 left in the game.

It was another solid effort from Graziano but he’d be tallied for the loss, saving 29/30 shots in just over 58 minutes of action.

Coulee Region plays host to the Minnesota Magicians this Thursday night in what’s the first college night of the year. All students get in free with proof of their college ID. Then it’s off to Richfield Saturday night to finish the home-and-home series against the Magicians.