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
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
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."