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Turnovers trouble Chill in loss to Blizzard

By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Saturday, January 8, 2011

ONALASKA – The Alexandria Blizzard, of all teams, taught the Coulee Region Chill a valuable lesson Saturday.

Gritty almost always beats pretty.

Alexandria scored three un-answered goals on turnovers by the Chill in their own zone to grab a 4-1 victory in front of 872 at the OmniCenter.

Coulee Region had owned Alexandria this season, with six straight wins entering Saturday's game. The Blizzard put an end to that streak by jumping all over a series of Chill mistakes in the worst places at the worst times.

"Killed us," Coulee Region defenseman David Mylrea said. "Alex is a pretty skilled team, and turnovers in our own end are just playing into their game. It kills any momentum we had and it takes a toll on the guys who made the turnovers; they come back hanging their heads."

The Chill had some problems early in the season getting the

puck safely out of their own end, but coach Garrett Strot believed the issue had been fixed.

It wasn't, at least in the third period Saturday.

The game was tied 1-1 when Alexandria's Alex Altenbernd stole the puck out of the corner and fed it to Nardo Nagtzaam, the NAHL's fifth-leading scorer, whose low shot got past a sliding Paul Moberg.

Alexandria put the game away with a two-goal flurry later in the third. Thomas Williams converted another Chill turnover, then Jordan Nelson won a loose puck behind the net and scored on a wraparound.

"Those first two goals (of the third period), we should have had it out of the zone," Strot said. "That's pretty disappointing. You can't make those mistakes."

Aside from the handful of mistakes, Coulee Region set a fast pace when it had the puck and had numerous good scoring chances. But Jacob Meyers, who had been 1-3 with a 4.70 GAA against the Chill in four previous starts, made 29 saves to keep his team in the game.

"We had three or four really good scoring chances in the second period," Strot said. "It would have been nice to get a couple to drop in then."

Coulee Region scored at 15:01 of the first period when Connor Gaarder took a slick pass from David Ripple in the slot and beat Meyers for his 14th goal of the season.

Alexandria tied it with 65 seconds left in the first when defenseman Michael Pieper held the puck at the blue line and fired into traffic, where Steve Zierke got a redirect past Moberg (31 saves).

NEW FACE: Forward Jakob Batcha made his home debut for the Chill on Saturday after signing with the team earlier in the week. Batcha, a native of Fredonia, Wis., started the season with Fargo (USHL).

Chill general manager Rick Wesp said he offered Batcha a tender contract this past offseason before Fargo, which plays in a higher-tier junior league, added him to its roster.

Batcha, 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, played 18 games for Fargo with one point.

"They called and asked if we'd be interested," Wesp said. "He needed to get ice time, and we were all over it. He will be an impact player. He's very skilled and fast, and he has size. He just brings another dimension."