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Weekend Recap: Chill Clinch 2016 Playoff Berth, Tie Franchise Record With 33 Wins

Coulee Region 3, Janesville Jets 4

The weekend got kicked off with a fast start from the Chill.  Holmen native Justin Kendall (Steven Quagliata, Larry Jungwirth assisted) was the first to crack the double zero’s just 5:30 into the first period.  Pat Gazillo and Jack Gates, however, would put the Jets up top 2-1 after converting at the 8 and 10 minute marks in the period.

The middle frame was one with special teams playing a big role.  Adrian Holesinsky made it 3-1 Jets on a power play with Isaac Theisen in the box for hooking and Dom Florian (Jackson Charlesworth, Nico Luka) made the Jets pay for a Taylor Fernandez tripping penalty in the last minute of the period to close the gap at 3-2 heading into the 3rd.

Dawson DiPietro put the Jets back up on top by two at 3:42 into the final period.  Chances were diminishing of clinching a playoff spot Friday night until Florian’s power-play goal gave the Chill a glimmer of hope :35 seconds remaining in the game but it’d be too-little, too-late.

It was a busy first-game back for Matiss Kivlenieks after nursing an injury the previous two weeks.  Throughout the night Kivlenieks saved 32/36 shots, giving up one power-play goal on six Jets chances.  Jack LaFontaine would get the win in net for the Jets, saving 24/27 shots.

 

Coulee Region Chill 3, Janesville Jets 2 (OT)

A rematch of Friday nights game, this time in front of a packed house at the Green Island Ice Arena in La Crosse.  

With a chance to clinch a playoff berth on the line in the final regular season home game, the building was electric with excited fans from the Coulee Region and Janesville alike.  The group of Jets fans were the first to have something to cheer for at the 12:23 mark in the 1st after Cole Paskus scored on a 5-3 power play.

Going into the 2nd period the Chill would be working on a power play after a scuffle ensued between Shane Kuzmeski and Holesinsky after an Alex Smith cross-checking penalty.  Alex Falconer (Florian, Quagliata) took advantage and scored with :11 seconds remaining to tie the game up at one.  The tie didn’t last long though as Paskus scored his second on the night with 15:24 left to play in the 2nd.

The 3rd period started with Janesville up 2-1 and lasted until 6:53 remaining in the game when Alex Lambacher (Florian) tied the game up at two.  That’s when things started to get interesting.

The last five minutes of regulation were unlike any type of hockey most people are accustomed to.  With needing only a point to clinch a playoff berth, and Janesville only needing a point to clinch the 2nd seed and home-ice advantage against the Minnesota Wilderness the Chill played “pass the puck” behind their own net.  With no real rush from the Jets the Chill could hold off for overtime and clinch the 4th and final seed in the Midwest Division for the 2016 Robertson Cup Playoffs.

With the overall objective for the night complete the game still needed a winner.  It didn’t take but :54 seconds before Florian (Kuzmeski, Luka) beat LaFontaine to secure the victory.

Kivlenieks’ night wasn’t as busy as the night before – saving 23/25 shots – as he picked up his first victory since March 18th.  LaFontaine would get the loss after saving 32/35 shots over the course of the night.

 

Coulee Region Chill 3, Minnesota Wilderness 2 (SO)

The 660th and final NAHL game of the season took place yesterday evening in Cloquet, MN.  With the playoffs in hand the Chill still had something to play for; for the first time since their inaugural season the Chill had an opportunity to tie the franchise high of 33 wins in a season.

With no action in the 1st period we went straight to the 2nd which was controlled by the visiting Chill.  Caleb Schroer (Phil Erickson, Chad Sasaki) gave Coulee Region the 1-0 lead 7:14 into the 2nd and Kendall (Luka) made it 2-0 Chill 1:59 left in the period.

The 3rd was the complete opposite with the Wilderness scoring two goals within a minute and a half of each other, one by Kyle Patava and the second by Ashton Calder.  There’d be no more scoring for either team in regulation.

It was just another game, another overtime period for the Chill who at this point have the extra frame nailed down to a science.  One team certainly fed up with playing Coulee Region in OT is no doubt the Wilderness; for the third-consecutive weekend the two Midwest Division playoff teams would be forced to play an overtime period to determine a winner.  

Two weeks before it was Florian converting in OT, last weekend Kendall scored with 2:42 remaining with helpers from both Sofo and Florian and last night it took OT and a shootout to determine a winner.  Six shooters between both teams had a crack at scoring but only Luka took advantage of the opportunity at hand, giving the Chill the victory and tying the franchise record with 33 wins in a season.

Hunter Vorva got the call in the pipes and stood tall saving 40/42 shots.  Chase Munroe took the loss after saving 26/28 in regulation and overtime but the Luka goal in the shootout would be the final dagger.

After a long final weekend of hockey the playoffs are now set!  The Chill, as a fourth seed, will be taking on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, a one seed.  The team is set to travel to Fairbanks this Wednesday for games one and two to be played this Friday and Saturday night, with the possibility of playing a third game there.  Depending on scenario’s the Chill will be back in La Crossethe following weekend to finish out the five-game series.  Details will be announced at a later date.

Go Chill!