The North American Hockey League (NAHL) released the 2016-17 schedule this morning. The Coulee Region Chill have 28 home games, 20 of which are against opposing Midwest Division Opponents the Springfield Jr. Blues, Janesville Jets, Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Kenai River Brown Bears and Minnesota Magicians. Six home games will be played against the Austin Bruins (four) and old divisional foe, the Minnesota Wilderness (two). The remaining two home games will be played at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN.
Here are important dates to remember:
September 21-14: NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN
October 22nd: Chill home opener vs. Austin Bruins
October 28th & 29th: Defending Robertson Cup Champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs are in town
February 27th & 28th: 2017 NAHL Top Prospects Tournament
April 6th: Home regular-season finale vs. Janesville Jets
The Coulee Region Chill acquired defenseman Marshal Plunkett in trade from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Plunkett, a native of nearby West Salem, WI, recently completed his first season in the NAHL where he competed in 38 games with the 2016 Robertson Cup Champions. He was the youngest player on the Ice Dogs roster and accumulated one goal and three assists and a +13 rating over the season. Before making the jump to the NAHL, Plunkett played for the Madison Capitols 16U team of the NAPHL. During the 2014-15 season he competed in 60 games for the Capitols and scored 12 goals and had 15 assists for a total of 27 points. During the season Plunkett was named to the 2015 NAPHL Top Prospects All-Star game where former Chill Coach AJ Degenhardt coached his team. He had two goals in the All-Star game including the game winning goal. Plunkett also participated in the the Jr. Chill AAA developmental program in past summers and will continue to develop and train this summer with the program under his new Coach Ryan Egan.
Coach Egan had this to say about Plunkett, “We are extremely excited about the acquisition of Marshal Plunkett from the Fairbanks Ice dogs. We are getting a fantastic person and a young veteran player that knows what it takes to win a championship in this league. The fact that Marshal is also from the Coulee Region is an added bonus to our organization.”
The Coulee Region Chill, Proud Members of the NAHL are excited to announced that two local high-school standouts, Bailey Martin and Tyler Ebner have signed tenders with the organization for the 2016-17 season. Martin and Ebner along with local Chill player Justin Kendall all played on the Team Wisconsin U18 team this past fall together.
Martin, a senior at West Salem High School saw a lot of success throughout his playing years with the Panthers scoring 108 goals and 90 assists in 98 games played, eight of which coming in the playoffs. Martin helped lead his high school team to a 21-3 record this past season before falling in the 2nd game of the playoffs to the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders.
Ebner, also a senior, attends Onalaska High School. The 6’1”, 175lb forward tied for 3rd in the state with 37 goals and ranked 3rd with 82 total points on the year. Ebner helped lead the Hilltoppers to a 21-3 record – including an 8-0 record in the Mississippi Valley Conference – and a 2016 state tournament appearance. He ended his high school career playing in 86 games (14 in the playoffs) scoring 74 goals and 82 assists.
The Chill are excited to continue to fulfill our mission of developing student athletes and the addition of these two local high school players highlights the development commitment we have made here in the local hockey community. Both local players participate in our Jr. Chill AAA program with our head coach Ryan Egan and will work to further their development going into the fall hockey season.
Two Forwards Justin Kendall and Larry Jungwirth along with defenseman Jackson Charlesworth and goalie Matiss Kivlenieks were all selected by USHL teams between rounds 1-8 yesterday.
Matiss Kivlenieks // Goalie // Round 1, Sioux City Musketeers
Birthday: Aug 26, 1996
Hometown: Riga, LAT
Kivlenieks had a great first season with the Chill in 2015-16 season that resulted in a large number of honors including NAHL Goalie of the Month in the month of February as well as being the 5th player overall drafted in the 2016 USHL Phase II Draft. After going 16-10 on the season and being a brick wall in net the 2nd half of the season, Kivlenieks announced his collegiate commitment to pursue academics and play hockey for Minnesota State University – Mankato (WCHA, D1).
Justin Kendall // Forward // Round 4, Lincoln Stars
Birthday: May 07, 1998
Hometown: Holmen, WI
The youngest Chill player to be selected in the 2016 USHL Phase II Draft, Kendall was drafted by the Lincoln Stars just four rounds in. He first saw action with the Chill in November this past year after choosing to forgo his Senior year of high school hockey. The local Holmen, WI talent scored 16 goals and 11 assists throughout the regular season and another three assists in the Robertson Cup Playoffs.
Jackson Charlesworth // Defenseman // Round 5, Green Bay Gamblers
Birthday: Mar 18, 1997
Hometown: Antigo, WI
In 2015-16 Charlesworth found his offensive groove in his 2nd season in the organization. The Chill veteran scored three goals both seasons but contributed with 14 more assists (18) in year two compared to year one. Charlesworth will continue playing hockey in the state of Wisconsin, this time on the Eastern side of the state with the Green Bay Gamblers.
Larry Jungwirth // Forward // Round 8, Green Bay Gamblers
Birthday: Jan 01, 1997
Hometown: Bloomington, MN
Joining Charlesworth in Green bay is Jungwirth. Acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Magicians right before the new year, he contributed immensely to the 2nd half surge the Chill made for the playoffs. He scored seven goals and 14 assists in 25 games played with the Chill not including the one goal and three assists scored in the 1st round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs. Jungwirth was named runner-up for NAHL Forward of the Month for the month of February.
Defenseman Nico Luka and Chad Sasaki, along with former head coach AJ Degenhardt, have been recognized for their accomplishments during the 2015-16 season.
Luka was one of two defenseman named to the All-Midwest Division Team after a great season, most notably the 2nd half of the year while the Coulee Region Chill were making a run for the 2016 Robertson Cup Playoffs. The native of Bartlett, IL finished the season with seven goals and 31 assists for 38 points which was good for 2nd highest on the team.
Sasaki was given the Midwest Division Academic Achievement Award for the work he did off the ice. The Colorado College (NCHC, D1) commit proved that it's just as important to excel in the classroom as it is on the ice, and he represented the organization well. In his first season in junior hockey he compiled two assists for the Chill.
Degenhardt was awarded Midwest Division Coach of the Year after leading the Chill to a turnaround no one would've ever expected. After starting the season 10-17 Degenhardt made a trade at the Christmas break sending team captain Michael Wilson to the Minnesota Magicians for forwards Alex Lambacher, Kevin Dineen and Larry Jungwirth. The trade proved to rejuvinate a young Chill roster as they finished the season with a 33-26-1 record, clinching a playoff spot in the 2nd-to-last game of the season against the Janesville Jets. The Chill's season ended last weekend in game four against the top seed Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
It was a tale of two different seasons for the Coulee Region Chill hockey team in 2015-16.
The season started with an average showing at the NAHL Showcase winning two-of-four games before heading into a dreadful month of October in which the Chill won only two games, one coming in a shootout against the Springfield Jr. Blues in the 2nd home game of the season and later in the month against the Minnesota Magicians in overtime.
The Month of November wasn’t too kind to the Chill either. The team won four games over the span of the month including a 3-1 record against both of the teams in Alaska and Midwest Division opponents, the Kenai River Brown Bears and Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
By the time Christmas rolled around everyone was ready for a break and needed time to regroup.
A 10-17 start to the season isn’t what head coach AJ Degenhardt had expected.
Degenhardt then made a bold trade during the Christmas break. A trade that would move forward and team captain Michael Wilson to the Minnesota Magicians for forwards Kevin Dineen, Larry Jungwirth and Alex Lambacher.
The energy brought in by the new set of forwards gave life to not only the Chill offense but the team as a whole. The Chill scored four-or-more goals in six games throughout the month of January (seven times combined September-December) en route to an 8-2 record. 2nd-year forward Dominik Florian had his best month of the season as did goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, both earning NAHL Player of the Month awards.
Much of the same took place in February. Kivlenieks, 6’2” native of Riga, Latvia, led the Chill all month going 5-0 and taking NAHL Goalie of the Month honors. Newcomer Jungwirth also played a large part in the 6-2 month of February; after sustaining an injury after his first game in a Chill uniform Jungwirth burst onto the scene with four goals and seven assists and finished runner-up in the NAHL Forward of the Month honors.
The first two months of 2016 had the team at an impressive 14-2 record and knocking on the door for their ticket into the 2016 Robertson Cup Playoffs. After going 6-4 in March and struggling through some player injuries, the Chill split their series with the Minnesota Wilderness the first weekend of April. They’d need one win in their final three games of the season to clinch a playoff spot.
And that’s exactly what they got against the Janesville Jets in front of a sell-out crowd at the Green Island Ice Arena on April 9th. The overtime victory put them 4th in the division and knocked the Springfield Jr. Blues out of postseason contention.
The 1st round of the playoffs, however, would be no easy feat and the team knew it going in. The Fairbanks Ice Dogs were not only the 1st seed in the Midwest Division but held the best record in the North American Hockey League.
The Chill proved all season that no matter what your record is you’re never guaranteed anything and you’re certainly never out of contention. They took that mindset into game one against Fairbanks and beat them 6-1 in front of their home crowd.
The rest of the series was a different story. The Chill fell to the Ice Dogs twice in Fairbanks before returning to La Crosse and losing in the best-of-three series on April 22nd.
Regardless of the 1st round loss in the playoffs the Chill showed exactly what you want from a team: resilience and determination. After being afterthoughts for the playoffs at the Christmas break they came together as a group and proved you can never take a team too lightly.
The organization begins a new chapter after their successful season with long-time head coach Degenhardt stepping down and Ryan Egan – former head coach of the La Crosse Freeze (NA3HL) – filling the void. He’s taking over an organization that has momentum and is ready for another run at the Robertson Cup in 2017.
The Coulee Region Chill, proud members of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), are pleased to announced that Ryan Egan has been named the team’s new head coach. Egan will assume full coaching duties once the Chill’s playoff run comes to an end, but has already begun work on scouting and recruiting.
The Chill needed a big weekend in a big way and they got it, winning 2/3 games and clinching the 4th and final playoff spot in the Midwest Division. A large part of that success was 2nd-year forward Dom Florian.
Florian has been one of the best offensive threats for Coulee Region during their 23-10 post-Christmas push to the playoffs. In that time he's contributed 23 goals – including five game-winning goals – and 16 assists. With a playoff berth on the line this past weekend he didn't shy away from the pressure. On Friday night in Janesville against the Jets the Vlasim, Czech Republic native scored two of the three Chill goals in the 3-4 loss. Saturday night he added two assists and scored the game-winning goal in overtime.
With the regular season now over, Florian and the Chill are preparing for the first round of the 2016 NAHL Robertson Cup Playoffs this weekend against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Games one and two are set to begin this Friday and Saturday, with games 3-5 in the best-of-five series yet to be announced.
The weekend got kicked off with a fast start from the Chill. Holmen native Justin Kendall (Steven Quagliata, Larry Jungwirth assisted) was the first to crack the double zero’s just 5:30 into the first period. Pat Gazillo and Jack Gates, however, would put the Jets up top 2-1 after converting at the 8 and 10 minute marks in the period.
The middle frame was one with special teams playing a big role. Adrian Holesinsky made it 3-1 Jets on a power play with Isaac Theisen in the box for hooking and Dom Florian (Jackson Charlesworth, Nico Luka) made the Jets pay for a Taylor Fernandez tripping penalty in the last minute of the period to close the gap at 3-2 heading into the 3rd.
Dawson DiPietro put the Jets back up on top by two at 3:42 into the final period. Chances were diminishing of clinching a playoff spot Friday night until Florian’s power-play goal gave the Chill a glimmer of hope :35 seconds remaining in the game but it’d be too-little, too-late.
It was a busy first-game back for Matiss Kivlenieks after nursing an injury the previous two weeks. Throughout the night Kivlenieks saved 32/36 shots, giving up one power-play goal on six Jets chances. Jack LaFontaine would get the win in net for the Jets, saving 24/27 shots.
Coulee Region Chill 3, Janesville Jets 2 (OT)
A rematch of Friday nights game, this time in front of a packed house at the Green Island Ice Arena in La Crosse.
With a chance to clinch a playoff berth on the line in the final regular season home game, the building was electric with excited fans from the Coulee Region and Janesville alike. The group of Jets fans were the first to have something to cheer for at the 12:23 mark in the 1st after Cole Paskus scored on a 5-3 power play.
Going into the 2nd period the Chill would be working on a power play after a scuffle ensued between Shane Kuzmeski and Holesinsky after an Alex Smith cross-checking penalty. Alex Falconer (Florian, Quagliata) took advantage and scored with :11 seconds remaining to tie the game up at one. The tie didn’t last long though as Paskus scored his second on the night with 15:24 left to play in the 2nd.
The 3rd period started with Janesville up 2-1 and lasted until 6:53 remaining in the game when Alex Lambacher (Florian) tied the game up at two. That’s when things started to get interesting.
The last five minutes of regulation were unlike any type of hockey most people are accustomed to. With needing only a point to clinch a playoff berth, and Janesville only needing a point to clinch the 2nd seed and home-ice advantage against the Minnesota Wilderness the Chill played “pass the puck” behind their own net. With no real rush from the Jets the Chill could hold off for overtime and clinch the 4th and final seed in the Midwest Division for the 2016 Robertson Cup Playoffs.
With the overall objective for the night complete the game still needed a winner. It didn’t take but :54 seconds before Florian (Kuzmeski, Luka) beat LaFontaine to secure the victory.
Kivlenieks’ night wasn’t as busy as the night before – saving 23/25 shots – as he picked up his first victory since March 18th. LaFontaine would get the loss after saving 32/35 shots over the course of the night.
Coulee Region Chill 3, Minnesota Wilderness 2 (SO)
The 660th and final NAHL game of the season took place yesterday evening in Cloquet, MN. With the playoffs in hand the Chill still had something to play for; for the first time since their inaugural season the Chill had an opportunity to tie the franchise high of 33 wins in a season.
With no action in the 1st period we went straight to the 2nd which was controlled by the visiting Chill. Caleb Schroer (Phil Erickson, Chad Sasaki) gave Coulee Region the 1-0 lead 7:14 into the 2nd and Kendall (Luka) made it 2-0 Chill 1:59 left in the period.
The 3rd was the complete opposite with the Wilderness scoring two goals within a minute and a half of each other, one by Kyle Patava and the second by Ashton Calder. There’d be no more scoring for either team in regulation.
It was just another game, another overtime period for the Chill who at this point have the extra frame nailed down to a science. One team certainly fed up with playing Coulee Region in OT is no doubt the Wilderness; for the third-consecutive weekend the two Midwest Division playoff teams would be forced to play an overtime period to determine a winner.
Two weeks before it was Florian converting in OT, last weekend Kendall scored with 2:42 remaining with helpers from both Sofo and Florian and last night it took OT and a shootout to determine a winner. Six shooters between both teams had a crack at scoring but only Luka took advantage of the opportunity at hand, giving the Chill the victory and tying the franchise record with 33 wins in a season.
Hunter Vorva got the call in the pipes and stood tall saving 40/42 shots. Chase Munroe took the loss after saving 26/28 in regulation and overtime but the Luka goal in the shootout would be the final dagger.
After a long final weekend of hockey the playoffs are now set! The Chill, as a fourth seed, will be taking on the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, a one seed. The team is set to travel to Fairbanks this Wednesday for games one and two to be played this Friday and Saturday night, with the possibility of playing a third game there. Depending on scenario’s the Chill will be back in La Crossethe following weekend to finish out the five-game series. Details will be announced at a later date.
Nico Luka has been named Defenseman of the Month in the NAHL while forward Dom Florian and goalie Matiss Kivlenieks have been named honorable mentions.
Luka, native of Bartlett, IL, was a menace from the blue line throughout the month of March on his way to being named Defenseman of the Month. He scored two goals and nine assists, no bigger game coming on the 24th as he contributed four assists on six Chill goals in a victory against the Minnesota Wilderness. Other big games for the 2nd-year defenseman include the 4th against the Kenai River Brown Bears in which he scored both a goal and an assist and the 25th when he dished two helpers, one of which was on a power play just 47 seconds into overtime. Luka now has seven goals and 28 assists on the season, ranking 5th in assists and 6th in points amongst defenseman in the NAHL.
Florian, native Vlasim, CZE, was goal-scoring machine throughout the month of March. He kicked the month off strong on the 4th against the Brown Bears scoring twice. He also went on a five-game goal streak in which he scored six of his nine goals in the month. His lone goal on the 25th against the Wilderness was the OT game-winner. Now with 26 goals and 20 assists on the season, Florian is having his best year as a Chill.
Kivlenieks, native of Riga, Latvia, went 3-2 in March after winning Goaltender of the Month for the month of February. His two losses came, however, game in small margins; the 11th against Fairbanks Ice Dogs in a 2-3 OTL and on the 19th against the Janesville Jets 1-2 loss. Kivlenieks has been sidelined since the 19th due to an injury but looks to get back to full strength for this weekends games in a push for the 2016 Robertson Cup Playoffs.