By Joel Badzinski | LaCrosse Tribune | Thursday, November 10, 2011
ONALASKA — Coulee Region Chill goaltender Aaron Davis didn’t leave the ice right away after Tuesday’s 90-minute practice at the OmniCenter.
Davis stuck around for an extra 15 minutes to let defenseman Matt Blomquist blast slapshot after slapshot at him, many from frighteningly close range.
It was similar to a lot of game situations for Davis.
Davis, a second-year goalie for the Chill, leads the NAHL in saves (536) this season. He’s faced an average of 35.1 shots per game and in five of 16 starts has seen 40-plus shots.
That’s a classic case of good news-bad news.
More shots mean more opportunities to develop his skills and show college scouts what he can do. It also means more work and more scoring chances for other teams.
“I don’t go into every game anticipating that many shots,” Davis said. “But as the game kind of progresses I’ll turn and look up at the (scoreboard) and they keep adding up. It’s not really that big of a deal to me. If that’s what’s going to happen I’ve just got to get ready for the storm.”
The Chill play a home-and-home series against the Alexandria Blizzard this weekend. They are at Alexandria on Friday and at the OmniCenter at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Davis is 8-6-2 with a 3.44 goals against average and 90.7 save percentage with two shutouts this season. He served as Paul Moberg’s backup last season, playing in 18 regular-season games with four playoff starts.
Rookie Greg Ogard
(0-2, 4.64 GAA in three games) is Davis’ backup.
Chill coach Garrett Strot said he’s keeping an eye on the fatigue factor for Davis. Davis made just four starts before December last season; this season he’ll have around 20 by that time. And since high school teams play 25 games, Davis will be in uncharted territory as far as workload by Christmas.
“He always gives us a chance to win, that’s the biggest thing,” Strot said. “Some (college scouts) are noticing that he’s doing well because he’s seeing a lot of shots and has a good save percentage.
“He’s holding up pretty good and that’s the one thing you’ve got to worry about. He’s been really solid all year.”
Coulee Region has allowed 38.3 shots on goal per game, third-worst in the NAHL this season. With four veteran defensemen, including NCAA Division I signees Blomquist (Bentley) and Eric Drapluk (Lake Superior State), it’s a hard stat to figure out.
But shots on goal are one thing and quality shots are another.
“The shots from outside, that’s fine if they want to take them all day,” Strot said. “It’s the quality shots you worry about. The main thing is we’ve got to knock down the quality shots and there are games we do that and games we don’t.”
Chill skaters blocked 28 shots in front of Davis during a 3-1 win over Bismarck on Nov. 4. But the following night, Davis faced 46 shots in a 4-1 loss.
“I think guys take pride in blocking shots for Aaron and every time one doesn’t go through that gives him a breather,” defenseman Andrew Pitts said. “I think the (Minnesota) Wild had 27 blocked shots (Tuesday) night, and those are pro guys laying down in front of 98 mph slappers, so blocking shots is a huge part of the game. I look for us to do more of that this weekend, hopefully.”
Said Davis: “If I’m out there at the end of practice after coach tells us to get off the ice and I’m standing in front of Blommer’s one-timers, then they’ll maybe start to think, well, I can step in front of something for him. That’s all I can really ask.”
RIESGRAF ADDED: The Chill acquired defenseman Brady Riesgraf from the Fargo Force (USHL) for future considerations on Wednesday, Strot said.
Riesgraf, a Chaska, Minn., native, played in three games for Fargo this winter. He has committed to NCAA Division I Bemidi State.
The Chill initially got the NAHL rights to Riesgraf after the 2011 draft, making a draft-and-trade deal with Jamestown, but Riesgraf also was taken by Fargo and started his junior career there.
Riesgraf, 5-feet-10, 160 pounds, played for Holy Family High School and was named Minnesota AP All-State honorable mention this past season. He led his team in scoring as a defenseman with 18 goals and 40 assists (58 points) and a plus-22 rating in 28 games.
Strot said Riesgraf is expected to join the team Friday at Alexandria.
HEALING UP: The Chill are still dealing with injuries at the forward position, but Strot said all three players are close to being ready.
The best news came in regard to Mac Jansen, who has been on crutches since a knee-to-knee hit in the Nov. 4 game.
Jansen, the team’s first-round draft pick this past spring, has a bone bruise on his left knee and could return for one of the post-Thanksgiving weekend games.
“It could have been bad,” Strot said.
Greg Walton (knee) and Jimmy Hughes (jaw) have returned to limited practice and are also about two weeks away from playing.