By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Saturday, April 2, 2011
ONALASKA – The Coulee Region Chill executed their game plan both to perfection and to frustration Friday night. The Chill wanted to fire as many shots as possible at Owatonna Express goaltender Charles Williams, preferably from close range, then whack away at rebounds.
Mission accomplished there.
The only glitch, and it was a big one, was that the Chill barely dented Williams, who made 42 saves and backed Owatonna to a 2-1 win in Game 1 of the NAHL Central Division playoffs in front of 949 at the OmniCenter.
"We just couldn't find the net," Coulee Region forward David Ripple said. "He's obviously a very good goalie, but there's no reason we shouldn't bury 'em. Hopefully we have a lot of shots tomorrow and they go."
The Chill host Owatonna in Game 2 of the best-of-five series at 7 p.m. today at the OmniCenter.
Williams went 6-1-1 against Coulee Region during the regular season. They got to him in a big way Feb. 12 at Owatonna, scoring six goals in two periods, but Friday he was the Williams Wall again.
He had to be, with the Express spending most of their time in their own zone and finishing with 22 shots on goal.
"To be honest with you, that was one of the better games we played on both ends of the ice," Coulee Region coach Garrett Strot said. "It was just one of those games where the goalie was exceptional for them."
The Chill took 15 shots on Williams in the first period and couldn't score. But he admittedly was shaky and left some big rebounds.
"Luckily they didn't get to them," Williams said. "I took that as a blessing."
And a lesson. Williams, knowing the Chill were going to crash his net looking for loose pucks, tightened up after that.
Owatonna scored on its first shot of the game, 29 seconds into the first period. Jake Youso skated down the left wing and fired from about 20 feet out, beating Paul Moberg (20 saves) over the glove.
Coulee Region tied it halfway through the second period on a blue-collar goal by the fourth line. James Hughes and Scott Bell worked the puck free along the boards and Bell fed Jake Useldinger, who surprised Williams with a backhander.
The Express took the lead back 3½ minutes later when John Haeg copied Youso's goal, driving in on Moberg and scoring on an elevated wrist shot.
"Good shots," Strot said.
The Chill outshot Owatonna 17-6 in the second period and had one goal to show for it.
"We had chances and chances and it just didn't click," Strot said. "Before the third period, I told them, just don't get frustrated. Keep working."
Williams made his best save 20 seconds into the third period when Connor Gaarder, curling behind the net, caught him out of position and slid the puck toward a wide-open goal. But Williams laid his stick across the line and batted it away.
With five minutes left in the third and the Chill still coming in waves, Ripple redirected a shot with Williams leaning the wrong way, but the puck skipped an inch wide.
"Forty-three shots, that's unbelievable," Ripple said. "We had our chances. It sucks that we came out with a loss. We'll come out on top more often than not when we play like that."