It took a few weeks but the Coulee Region Chill are finally becoming one.
Between head coach Ryan Egan, the progression of the younger players and the veterans on the squad, everyone is starting to play together, evident through their play the past three games.
This past weekend it was all about the leaders in the Central Division – the Brookings Blizzard – and what kind of test it’d be for the Chill. And it all started out with a fight to the end on Friday night.
The two teams started slow as to most opponents that aren’t familiar with one another. No penalties and no goals were recorded in the first. The first penalty came at the 2:20 mark in the second period, sending a Blizzard player to the box. An unsuccessful power play was soon flipped into Brookings’ favor when Chill forward Tyler Ebner hit the box on a hooking minor 5:41 into the period. It took just 27 seconds for Brookings to take advantage and beat Chill goalie Emil Zetterquist for the first goal of the game.
Ebner would make up for his penalty, however. The native from La Crosse, WI scored on Coulee Region’s second power play opportunity of the period with helpers from both Marshal Plunkett and Billy Duma. And what took the Chill over 36 minutes to do once they did twice in just 51 seconds as Plunkett (Connor Szmul) scored to close out the second period, Chill leading 2-1.
All that occurred the first two periods of last Friday night set up for what would be an exciting third period. In the first 10:55 of the third Brookings both tied and took the 3-2 lead over Coulee Region before Nick Bowman (Andrew McGlynn, Tomas Vochozka) and Jacob Dirks (Brandon Koch, Vochozka) turned the game in the Chills’ favor. Coulee needed to hold on for another 6:25 to win but Vince Marino of Brookings beat Zetterquist to tie the game with just over three minutes to play.
Both teams took matters into overtime where neither team could find the back of the net while they combined for five total in the final period.
In round one of the the shoot-out, Jackson Decker started things out with a goal on his shot, giving Coulee the 1-0 advantage. In round two both teams missed, giving Chase Brand the opportunity to tie it for Brookings. Which is exactly what he did. That led to the game falling on the shoulders of Bowman, a native of Shelby Township, Michigan in his first season with the Chill. And he didn’t disappoint, beating the Blizzard goaltender giving Coulee Region the 5-4 OT win.
Zetterquist saved 34/38 shots over the course of the night.
It’s over a five hour drive from Brookings, SD to La Crosse so the Blizzard were in town for a full weekend series.
Unlike the night before, most of the action Saturday night happened in the first period. Connor Szmul, this past weekends’ number one Star of the Midwest Division, scored two first period goals with assists from Connor Zilisch, Matt Hines, Bailey Martin and Jesper Solomon Frisell. Vochozka (Koch, Zetterquist) added another goal just 1:11 into the second period to make the score 3-1.
Both teams traded goals in the third with Szmul (Koch, Decker) ending the night with a hat trick. Zetterquist followed up his previous night with another strong showing, this time saving 35/37 shots on the night.
The Chill have found some momentum and now look to carry it into their three-game weekend starting this Thursday night against the Minnesota Magicians at the Green Island Ice Arena. They’ll be home Friday night as well taking on the Austin Bruins in what’ll be a home-and-home between the two teams, concluding Saturday night in Austin.