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Connor Gaarder two-time NAHL Central Player of the Week.

Coulee Region forward Connor Gaarder connected for three goals and an assist as the Chill skated to a two-game sweep over Alexandria. On Friday, the Edina, Minn., native notched a pair of goals in a 6-3 victory. The next night, the 19-year-old who competed in last week’s NAHL Top Prospects Tournament tallied the game-winning marker and an assist as the Chill downed the Blizzard, 6-4.

“Connor has been one of our top and most consistent players all year,” said Chill head coach Garrett Strot. “He had a very strong Top Prospects Tournament and carried that performance into last weekend’s games.”

Click here for more NAHL Players or the Week.

Chill Freeze the Blizzard

The Chill opened up their win over the Alexandria Blizzard on Friday scoring four goals in the first period.  Tommy Miller scored the first goal 2:48 into the first period. Micky Knox, Connor Gaarder and Matt Blomquist each followed with goals in that period.  Gaarder scored another power play goal in the second and Zac Frischmon added a late empty-net insurance goal.  The Blizzard outshot the Chill 31-15 in the final two periods, but Aaron Davis stopped 34 shots for the game.  

Saturday night, Scott Bell scored the Chill’s first goal 15 seconds into the game.  Chris Hughes scored two more after Bell’s to again take an early lead in the first period.  James Hughes scored the lone goal in the second for either team making it 4-1.  Alexandria attempted a comeback in the third, but Paul Moberg made 13 saves (38 total) to hold the Blizzard back and Gaarder and Knox nailed home the last two in the third for the 6-4 win.

After a too-fast start with too-slow moments, Chill forward Frischmon finds the right speed

By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Thursday, December 9, 2010 | Photo by Erik Daily

ONALASKA – There is nothing magical about Coulee Region Chill forward Zac Frischmon's transformation from a struggling rookie into one of the top five goal scorers in the NAHL.

Frischmon himself can't point to one factor. There's veteran confidence, an intense offseason training program, a better understanding of his role, a change of scene and more.  What's clear is that Frischmon is playing at a high level this season. The 20-year-old from Blaine, Minn., leads the Chill in goals (17) and points (26).

"I kind of expected him to have this kind of a year and be our leading goal-scorer," Coulee Region coach Garrett Strot said. "He was one of the better players in the state in high school and had to adapt to the level."

Frischmon played in 58 games for North Iowa last season, his first in juniors. He scored eight goals and 19 points and had a minus-34 rating.  It was a learning experience even for a player who had been to the Minnesota state tournament four straight years with Class AA power Blaine High School.

"Getting used to the pace was a major adjustment for me," Frischmon said. "I started off almost playing too fast. I was trying to make things happen too quickly, moving through scoring areas too fast. Other times I wasn't getting into the areas. So it was kind of finding that comfort level and just expecting what's going to happen."

Frischmon felt things start to click midway through the season. Not wanting to lose that edge, Frischmon hit the team's offseason workout regimen hard, skating six or seven days a week and lifting five days a week.  By the time he reported to the team's final tryout camp in late July, Frischmon was in top form, something that Strot and the coaching staff noticed right away.

"I knew this year was kind of make or break for me; kind of go big or go home" Frischmon said. "This offseason I had the mindset that I was going to play Division I next year. I was just constantly working on my strength and my skills. You come in faster and stronger you feel more dominant."

Frischmon's increased offense hasn't come at the cost of his defense. He prides himself on being a two-way forward who's responsible in his own zone rather than floating around waiting for breakout passes.

"That's just how it's always been," Frischmon said. "Some guys are one-way players and that's what they're good at. Being a two-way player just works for me. Scouts look for different things and different types of players. I just stick to what I do and try doing the details the best I can like blocking shots and backchecking."

Frischmon's strong start earned him a spot in the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament in Boston on Dec. 5-7, joining Chill teammates Paul Moberg, Connor Gaarder and Matt Blomquist.  He turned in three points in three games for Team Weight (named after NHL player Doug Weight, an NAHL alumnus), which was coached by Strot and won the tournament.

"I had a blast," Frischmon said. "I was talking to a couple of the guys that went and we all agreed on one thing, that it was a lot of fun to play at that higher pace and it's almost going to be kind of a bummer to go back to playing regular season games. It is so much fun when everybody out there had such a high capability."

For Frischmon, it also was a chance to play against teams loaded with players who have signed with or will sign with Division I teams. Strot said Frischmon, 5-feet-10, 180 pounds, is getting closer to reaching that status.

"He brings a lot of energy and he works hard in the corners," Strot said, "but they want a guy who's 6-2. Once they come to realize the effort and energy he brings, he will fit onto any team and accept any role and I think that's why he will end up getting something. A lot of scouts liked him (in Boston) and are going to keep tabs on him." 

Express defeats Chill 3-0

ONALASKA – It was hard to fault the Coulee Region Chill's offensive effort Friday.

The Chill produced wave after wave of the kind of juicy scoring opportunities that bring fans up out of their seats and the goal judge's finger a twitch away from turning on the lamp.

What it amounted to was exactly zero goals, however, as the Owatonna Express and goaltender Charles Williams shut down the Chill for a 3-0 victory at the OmniCenter.

"Too much offense to get shut out," Coulee Region coach Garrett Strot said.

Williams made 34 saves for his first NAHL shutout. The 18-year-old from Canton, Mich., certainly earned it. The Chill tested him with point-blank chances on the power play, several odd-man rushes and a few scrambles in front.

Nothing went through, and with each pressure save, Williams' confidence grew.

"That gets you in the groove when the other team has scoring opportunities and you have to be ready," Williams said.

The Chill missed more than scoring chances. With a victory, they could have moved into a tie for second place in the Central Division with Owatonna. Instead, the Express (14-8-4, 32 points) took over first place, and Coulee Region (13-7-2, 28) settled into third.

Owatonna had the Chill bottled up in the first five minutes of the game, getting five quick shots on Paul Moberg (25 saves).

A Coulee Region power play broke the spell, and the Chill were on the offensive for the better part of the final 2½ periods.

In fact, it was a major flurry by Coulee Region that led to Owatonna's first goal, which held up as the game-winner.

Onalaska native Nathan Trannel drew a slashing penalty, putting the Chill on the power play. Even after the penalty expired, Coulee Region kept swarming Williams' net.

With defenseman Eric Drapluk in deep on the attack and no one back to cover his position, Owatonna chipped the puck out of the zone, starting a 2-on-1.

Express leading scorer Ben Persian knew what to do, beating Moberg with a shot from the right circle.

"We were creating chances, and that's what happens," Strot said. "They knock the puck away, and all of a sudden it's a 2-on-1. That was kind of how the game went."

Owatonna made it 2-0 on a power-play goal by Marian Fiala at 1:51 of the third period. It set up a similar situation to the Chill's last game, during which they fell behind Alexandria by two goals early in the third, then rallied to win 4-3.

The main difference was Williams, who put the finishing touch on his shut out by turning away Drapluk alone in the slot with 1:44 left in the third period.

"We couldn't buy one," Drapluk said. "Sometimes it doesn't go your way and you've got to get through it. We didn't get some bounces, but their goalie played a hell of a game."

Nick Widing's empty-net goal with 17 seconds left closed it out.

The Chill were shut out for the second time this season. They lost their home opener to Aberdeen 3-0 on Oct. 29.

"You've got to put your scoring chances away when you get them," Strot said.

UP NEXT: Chill at Alexandria, 7:30 p.m. Friday 

Ripple named NAHL Central Player of the Week

Coulee Region forward David Ripple struck for two goals and three assists as the Chill skated to a 2-1 record last week. After picking up an assist in a 6-1 loss to the Janesville Jets on Wednesday, the Winter Springs, Fla., native registered two more assists, including one on Lucas Dillon’s game-winning goal, in the Chill’s 5-1 triumph over the Austin Bruins on Thanksgiving. The 19-year-old tallied two goals on Saturday – a 4-3 victory over the Alexandria Blizzard. He was also a plus-4 for the week.

“David is a big, strong forward who likes to play in front of the net,” said Chill head coach Garrett Strot. “He continues to get better every game.”

See the rest of the NAHL Players of the Week here

Big comeback could provide future boost for Chill

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."