By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Saturday, November 27, 2010
This win could be worth more than two points for the Coulee Region Chill. The carryover from a furious third-period rally and 4-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard on Saturday night at the OmniCenter figures to resonate for a while.
"That's huge for our confidence," forward David Ripple said. "We know we can come back if that happens again."
Ripple scored back-to-back goals during the comeback, and defenseman Matt Blomquist buried the game-winner on a 50-foot slapshot. Coulee Region's tying and go-ahead goals came 40 seconds apart in the final 1:36 of the third period. Backup goalie Aaron Davis won his second straight start, making 36 saves.
"In the third period it was just a matter of, you've gotta work hard and get after it," Chill coach Garrett Strot said.
For long stretches, it didn't look like the Chill's night. Alexandria methodically built a 3-1 lead while Coulee Region had one goal waved off and missed out on another chance when Lucas Dillon was stopped on a penalty shot. The disallowed goal came in the first period with the Blizzard leading 1-0. Chris Hughes took a point-blank shot that drove goalie Josh Williams sliding back into his own net, and it appeared he'd brought the puck with him. But after a brief conference the officials concurred on the wave-off.
"They never saw it cross the goal line," Strot said. "You'd have to have an overhead camera to have seen it."
The kicker for the Chill seemed to come early in the third when their defense lost track of Nardo Nagtzaam, the fourth-leading scorer in the league, and a wide-open Nagtzaam scored easily to make it 3-1.
"That was disappointing," Strot said. "He's probably the best player in the league. We had him covered for a while there, but he's so good at separating from defenders. You can't lose that kid."
Ripple made it 3-2 on a power-play redirect at 8:07, and from that point on the Chill were on the all-out attack. With just over five minutes left in the third, Dillon was pulled down in front of the net and awarded a penalty shot. Williams (31 saves) kicked away the low shot, and Alexandria took a two-goal lead into the final two minutes. Coulee Region kept coming. Ripple tied it when he got control of the puck at the side of the net, circled in front and fired through a mass of bodies past a screened Williams, tying it at 18:27.
"I just wanted to get it through," Ripple said. "I figured get it up in the air because I knew he was down, just go up top somewhere."
Forty seconds later, Blomquist, the team's top-scoring defenseman, skated down the right wing and blasted a shot past a stunned Williams for a 4-3 lead at 19:05. The Chill kept Alexandria bottled up and prevented Williams from leaving the net for a sixth attacker, capping the inspired comeback.
"With a couple minutes left, we had to put something together," Davis said. "It was quite the experience."