LaCrosse Tribune | Joel Badzinski |Wednesday, September 15, 2010
BLAINE, Minn. – David Mylrea skated off the ice with a loud whoop and a big grin Wednesday afternoon. Mylrea and the Coulee Region Chill had a little something to celebrate: A 5-2 win over Port Huron (Mich.) in the NAHL Showcase at the Schwan Super Rink.
It was the Chill's first game as an Onalaska-based junior hockey franchise after moving from Mason City, Iowa this spring.
"I was real happy with what was going on out there," said Mylrea, one of 10 returning players. "I liked it, liked it a lot."
There was a lot to like, especially from the team's veterans. Mickey Knox scored two goals, one on the power play and one short-handed, goalie Paul Moberg took a shutout into the third period and finished with 24 saves, and Mylrea won a second-period fight and had an assist.
As for the newcomers, Chris Hughes had a goal and an assist, and big defenseman Tate Rusk had two gutsy blocked shots and an assist. Onalaska native Nathan Trannel was a healthy scratch. He likely will play in at least one of the Chill's four games at the Showcase.
Coulee Region coach Garrett Strot wasn't sure how the opener would go with a roster comprised of the returning players, six more junior hockey veterans and 10 rookies.
"I could tell in warm-ups that we were tight," Strot said. "We had one drill and it was brutal, and I was, ‘Oh…' It wasn't because of lack of focus. We were just tight."
Port Huron, an expansion team, came out and tried to knock the Chill back to Onalaska with a wave of physical plays.
But the Falcons were too aggressive and took five penalties in the first period. Coulee Region capitalized with two goals, one on the power play.
"When you're killing penalties all the time, it takes a lot out of you," Strot said. "I don't know if they were trying to intimidate us or what, but our guys kept going. If they want to keep doing that, go ahead. We'll take the power plays."
Zac Frischmon scored at the 5-minute, 17-second mark of the first period, tipping in a shot by Andrew Pitts past Salvatore Ticci – the first goal for the team as the Coulee Region Chill.
Port Huron kept throwing gloves, elbows and sticks and parading to the penalty box. David Ripple made it 2-0 on the power play at 16:16 of the first on another redirected shot.
"We just took stupid penalties, obviously, and got behind," Falcons coach Ernie Hicke said. "And in the second period we made stupid mistakes and fell behind 4-0. You can't do that at this level."
Knox pounced on a mistake by Ticci at the side of his own net, when Ticci lost the puck on a miscommunication with his nearest defenseman. Knox curled around and tapped it in for a 3-0 lead early in the second period.
"The goalie tried to pass it out and they put it right on my tape," Knox said. "I kind of had a gift; he wrapped it up for me and I just had to put it home."
The Falcons' frustration boiled over quickly, as Cole Meyer took a five-minute cross-checking penalty and Leonid Kovalev picked a fight with Mylrea, who got in a punch before twisting Kovalev down to the ice.
"That's just another day in the life of the league," Mylrea said. "You've just got to learn how to deal with it and not stand down and let them run all over you, let them know you're there."
Hughes and Knox (power play) scored to make it 5-0 before Port Huron jumped on some bad line changes by the Chill in the third period to spoil Moberg's shutout.
Moberg, returning as the top goalie, still liked what he saw in his end of the rink.
"(The defense) played great," Moberg said. "They blocked a ton of shots, spread the forwards out and pushed 'em outside, had good sticks blocking passes, everything."