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Turnovers trouble Chill in loss to Blizzard

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

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." 

Three Florida players move out of the heat, into the Chill

By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Friday, January 7, 2011

ONALASKA – Coulee Region Chill players Eric Drapluk, Tommy Miller and David Ripple are used to being treated as curiosities.

From their schoolmates in Florida, who couldn't understand their passion for an unfamiliar sport, to their new teammates up north, who wonder where they found ice time in the tropics, they've had to constantly prove themselves.

But the bottom line is that Drapluk, Miller and Ripple have just as much passion and talent for hockey as any kid who grew up in East Grand Forks or Edina. They just took a unique path to discover it.

The Chill have 19 Minnesota natives on their roster, most of any team in the NAHL. So the three Floridians are constantly bombarded with stories about pond hockey or playing in the state tournament in front of 18,000 people.

"It sounds cool to hear what they went through," Miller said. "But at the same time it's nice to hear how we got here too."

Drapluk, Miller and Ripple all started out playing roller hockey instead of ice hockey. It was by necessity, not choice, since roller hockey leagues are much easier to find than ice hockey leagues in Florida.

"I started playing roller hockey when I was 6," Ripple said. "Then I met a friend on another team who played ice hockey and he got me into it."

For all three, the transition from roller to ice hockey was the turning point. What was a fun sport on inline skates became something more serious on steel blades.

"It just grows on you," Drapluk said. "Once you get on the ice you keep playing and you feel you can get somewhere and the passion comes with it."

The challenge was just beginning. Drapluk (Pembroke Pines), Miller (Miami) and Ripple (Winter Springs) and their parents all had to work hard just to find ice arenas and developmental leagues.

"I know me and Drapluk had to travel two to three hours to practice for a few years," Miller said. "If you don't have a passion for it, you're wasting your time and your parents' money. You really have to have the drive because it's a lot of self-motivation."

For all three, being ice hockey players meant getting almost no recognition from their peers. Kind of like being a surfer in La Crosse.

"You try to explain to people at your school and they have no idea," Miller said. "You're so disconnected. They don't even consider you an athlete. They think it's a joke and you're doing it for a hobby. They don't realize how serious we are or the passion we have."

Drapluk, Miller and Ripple all went through the Jacksonville Ice Dogs midget program, led by coach Brett Strot, older brother of Chill coach Garrett Strot. That meant all three had to leave home and attend boarding schools.

"The sacrifices are unreal," Ripple said. "You don't get to be a part of your high school; you're kind of always at hockey. You couldn't really hang out after school or on the weekends because we had practices or games."

During their time in Jacksonville, the Chill's Florida players traveled across the country for tournaments and got to see what hockey outside Florida was like.

See CHILL, D3

"We started being exposed to what hockey's really about," Miller said. "Playing against powerhouses from Detroit and the Midwest. Naturally we saw what it took and a lot of us came back determined to do what we had to to get there."

Chill coach Garrett Strot keeps in close touch with his brother for a line on Florida talent and had been aware of Drapluk, Miller and Ripple for a long time before bringing them to Onalaska.

"I knew how they were coached, I've seen them play and I know what they can do," Garrett Strot said. "A lot of those guys played roller hockey and you can see there's more of a regrouping style, more passing. All three have good vision and see the ice really well. Part of it is just the way my brother coaches."

With their roster spots on the Chill secured this past summer, Drapluk, Miller and Ripple went about preparing for their first Wisconsin winter.

For Miller and Ripple, it was the first time away from home. They didn't have winter jackets or boots and had to ask their host parents and teammates for help finding the right items.

Ripple has discovered his love of cold and snow and winter fun like sledding and snowboarding.

Drapluk said seeing fans wearing winter jackets and drinking hot chocolate feels like a true hockey environment.

For Miller, the welcome-to-winter moment was a minor car accident.

"I was going slow; I guess they didn't salt the roads that day," Miller said. "It wasn't my fault. I'm a great driver. I slid out and instead of going into oncoming traffic I found a snowbank and rammed into that."

All three agree they love the friendly people and small-town atmosphere.

"It's a much better environment and it makes me even more determined than before," Ripple said. "You see people care about hockey, not just you."

While all the travel as a youth player and moving halfway across the country as an 18- or 19-year-old has been difficult, Drapluk, Miller and Ripple agree they're happy where they are now.

"I wouldn't change any of it," Drapluk said. "I don't regret all the travel, missing school. It's hard not having all the friends you want growing up. But you're here with your buddies on the team and that helps, being around 20, 25 guys you can bond with."

Moberg, Jaremko lead Chill to victory

By Tribune Staff | LaCrosse Tribune | Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – Paul Moberg made 47 saves and Ben Jaremko scored twice as the Coulee Region Chill continued their dominance of the Alexandria Blizzard with a 6-2 win Friday.

The Chill have won six of seven games, including six straight, against the Blizzard.

Moberg improved to 14-7-3 this season and 3-1 against Alexandria. He didn't give up a goal over the final 15 minutes, 18 seconds Friday and stopped all 10 shots by Alexandria's Nardo Nagtzaam, the league's fifth-leading scorer.

Coulee Region (19-9-3) broke open a 2-2 game with four straight goals over the second and third periods. Jaremko scored the go-ahead goal at 16:34 of the second. David Ripple and Eric Drapluk each added two assists.

Moberg and Ripple both named NAHL players of the week again.

SBK HOCKEY/CENTRAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
David Ripple – Coulee Region Chill

Coulee Region forward David Ripple struck for two goals and three assists as the Chill skated to a 2-0-1 record. On Thursday, the Winter Springs, Fla., native tallied a goal and an assist in a 4-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard. The next night, the 19-year-old picked up two assists as Coulee Region fell to Janesville in a shootout, 5-4. Rippled scored another goal in the Chill’s 2-1 triumph over the Jets on New Year’s Day. He was also a plus-3 for the week.

“David is getting better each game,” said Chill head coach Garrett Strot. “He plays a physical game and likes to play in front of the net, and he always knows where his linemates are to get them the puck.”

SBK HOCKEY/GOALTENDER OF THE WEEK
Paul Moberg – Coulee Region Chill

Coulee Region goaltender Paul Moberg backstopped the Chill to a 1-0-1 record against Janesville in his two starts last week, turning aside 83 of 88 shots. On New Year’s Eve, the Forest Lake, Minn., native made 52 saves in regulation and overtime and four of five in the shootout in a 5-4 loss. The next night, the 19-year-old Air Force Academy recruit stopped 31 shots as the Chill bested the Jets, 2-1.

“Paul has been playing very well all year,” said Chill head coach Garrett Strot. “Last weekend, he was really focused and poised and we’re looking for him to have an even better second half of the season.”

Click here for more players of the week.

The Milk Can Trophy stays in Onalaska as the Chill are able to hold on for 3 points in the split with Janesville.

The Chill started the night off with first period goal from Connor Gaarder.  Janesville answered back late in first to start the back and forth that keep the action going throughout.   Each team scored one in the second and then two more in the third to force the overtime.  Despite 56 failed attempts to score against goalie Paul Moberg, the Jets were able to sneak one through in the shootout to win. 

January 1st showed no less action as Moberg held off 31 shots to help the Chill win game two 2-1.    David Ripple scored at 7:44 in the first from Lucas Dillon and Connor Gaarder.   The Jets tied it up in the seconds for a bit as Zac Frischmon put the Chill back in the lead at 15:53 of the second.   Penalty minutes put the action in high gear as the Chill held the Jets scoreless through the third period. 

The Chill take on the Alexandria Blizzard this Saturday at 7pm.

Chill’s Miller scores game-winner late in third

By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Friday, December 31, 2010

ONALASKA – Coulee Region Chill forward Tommy Miller credited luck for putting him in the right place at the right time Thursday night.

Miller also knew exactly what to do with his good fortune. Miller buried a 45-foot slapshot with just more than four minutes left in the third period, leading the Chill to a 4-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard in front of 532 at the OmniCenter.

Goaltender Aaron Davis backed the win with 40 saves, and Coulee Region beat the Blizzard for the fifth time in six games this season.

Miller's linemate, James Hughes, had the puck tapped away by a defenseman on a rush into the Alexandria zone. Miller was right there and one-timed a shot over the glove of Jacob Meyers.

"We got some bounces; I got a lucky one," Miller said. "I followed my guy and got off a good shot."

Chill coach Garrett Strot credited Miller for paying attention. On an earlier play, a loose puck had come to him and he'd waited too long to shoot. He didn't hesitate when the opportunity came a few minutes later.

"It's a credit to him," Strot said. "The puck was standing on end and he didn't try to carry it, he just shot."

Miller's goal was the culmination of a hard-charging period by the Chill, who were on the attack almost constantly after Alexandria tied the game 3-3 early in the second.

"You can always want to win, but how determined are you to do it?" Strot said. "We kept up the pressure on them and kept putting pucks on the net."

Davis, making his eighth start, made 29 saves through the first two periods and didn't allow a goal over the final 39:44. He also had to stop Blizzard forward Nardo Nagtzaam, the fifth-leading scorer in the league, twice on breakaways and once on a point-blank power-play slapshot.

"The more shots you see, the more focused you are," Davis said. "With Alexandria, if it's Nardo or (Steve) Zierke, you usually look up and know it's them coming. I just had to compose myself."

The Chill scored 28 seconds into the game when Lucas Dillon swatted in a rebound through a tangle in front of Meyers. The teams traded goals after that, with Brent Bain scoring twice for the Blizzard and Jake Useldinger and David Ripple for Coulee Region.

Alexandria's special teams units, which both ranked in the top 10 of the NAHL, were as advertised. The Blizzard went 2-for-7 on the power play and held the Chill to 1-for-9.  Michael Pieper tied it for the Blizzard 16 seconds into the second period.

Coulee Region had a superb chance to break the tie early in the third when Alexandria was called for three penalties in a 2½-minute span but couldn't capitalize. The Chill kept coming and got a break when the Blizzard had a goal waved off at 14:49 of the third.

Coulee Region hosts Janesville today and Saturday to finish a set of three games in three days.

Tribune's Three stars: 1. Tommy Miller, F, Coulee Region Chill. Buried game-winning goal with 4:07 left in third period; 2. Aaron Davis, G, Coulee Region Chill. 40 saves; 3. Brent Bain, F, Alexandria, Two goals.

Austin Bruins push past Coulee Region Chill, 5-3

By the Tribune staff | LaCrosse Tribune | Saturday, December 18, 2010

AUSTIN, Minn. — The Coulee Region Chill ran out of steam in the third period Saturday and lost for just the second time since Thanksgiving, 5-3 to the Austin Bruins.

Coulee Region plays at Janesville at 2 p.m. today before a 10-day holiday break.

The Chill (16-8-2) won at Austin in Friday’s weekend series opener, giving them five wins in six games. Coulee Region then took a 1-0 lead in the first period Saturday on Connor Gaarder’s goal.

But Austin (9-17-1) scored three goals in a 6½ minute span in the second period to take a two-goal lead. 

The Chill evened the score as Zac Frischmon buried his 19th goal of the year and Gaarder added his second of the game and 11th of the season.

Austin didn’t allow Coulee Region to keep its momentum, as Alex Tesensky scored 19 seconds after Gaarder to give Austin a 4-3 lead.

Jordan Greenberg added an empty-net goal for the Bruins.

Coulee Region’s Aaron Davis stopped 37 shots in the loss.

Chill gets win in Austin again

AUSTIN, Minn.—Lucas Dillon and the Coulee Region Chill have the Austin Bruins’ number this season.

Dillon scored his fourth game-winning goal against Austin in six meetings this season, leading the Chill to a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Friday night.

Coulee Region is 5-1 against Austin. The Chill have won three straight and are 16-7-2 overall.

Dillon, a 20-year-old forward from Thief River Falls, Minn., has scored two game-winning goals in the third period and one in overtime against the Bruins this winter.

With the game tied 2-2 on Friday, Dillon put the Chill ahead for good with 1 minute, 25 seconds left in the third off assists from Zac Frischmon and Ben Gislason.

Austin took a 1-0 lead in the second period before Coulee Region’s David Ripple tied it on the power play, with assists to Dillon and Frischmon. 

The Chill took the lead early in the third on a Jake Useldinger goal, then Cory Ellis tied it midway, setting the stage for Dillon’s goal.

Coulee Region goaltender Paul Moberg made his 20th start and improved to 12-6-2, but had to work for the win. He stopped 42 of 44 shots, including all 18 in the first period and 16 of 17 in the third.

The Chill moved into second place in the NAHL Central Division with 34 points, one behind Bismarck. Austin hosts Coulee Region again tonight at 7:05 p.m. The Chill are at Janesville on Sunday, then return home for three straight games Dec. 30-Jan. 1.