After finishing last season out of the playoffs as the North Iowa Outlaws, the since-relocated Coulee Region Chill dropped the puck on a promising new era at last week’s NAHL Showcase Tournament, finishing the event with an impressive 3-0-1 mark.
The Chill opened the event with a 5-2 victory over the Port Huron Fighting Falcons before falling to the St. Louis Bandits in overtime, 2-1. Coulee Region downed the Texas Tornado, 5-2, in the third game and wrapped up the Showcase with a 6-3 triumph over the Kenai River Brown Bears.
“I thought we had a very good Showcase,” said Chill head coach Garrett Strot, noting his club’s improved speed from a season ago. “I liked how our guys competed all four games.”
Two players who wasted no time legitimizing themselves as college prospects were 19-year-old forwards Connor Gaarder, from Edina, Minn., and Zac Frischmon, from Blaine, Minn.
Gaarder led the Chill in scoring with seven assists in the four games with Frischmon right behind him with six points on four goals.
“Both of those guys were being talked about by Division I scouts,” said Strot. “They worked hard this summer and you could see it right away in our summer camps. They play determined and aren’t going to lose a battle for the puck.”
Forward Berkley Scott notched six points (three goals), too, teamed with Gaarder and Frischmon, and the line combo of Micky Knox, Dane Shaugabay and Lucas Dillon also enjoyed a strong Showcase.
Defensively, Scott Bell, the team’s assistant captain, showed off his versatility while David Mylrea, the Chill’s captain, Mike McDonald and Matt Blomquist helped anchor a blue line that boasts a number of young defensemen.
And don’t forget the strong performance from returning 19-year-old goaltender Paul Moberg, who went 2-0-1 at the Showcase to compliment a 1.96 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage.
“You could see the difference in our returning players and the improvements they made,” said Strot. “I thought all of our vets played well.”
The Chill continues its season the road with six more games before its home-opener on Oct. 29 against the Aberdeen Wings. This weekend, it heads to Janesville to take on the Jets for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday.
“Obviously we’re happy with our start, but this is just the beginning,” said Strot. “We have a lot of things we need to improve on and tighten up, but it always feels good to get the season started right.”
ABERDEEN WINGS: Despite its 0-4 mark at the Showcase Tournament, one bright spot for Aberdeen was the play of forward James Rudi Pino. The 20-year-old from Vancouver, Wash., led the first-year Wings in scoring with three goals for four points.
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: With a 2-1-1 record at the Showcase Tournament, the Blizzard has few complaints with the start to its season. “Team-wise, we’re pleased with the way the Showcase went, but we also know we have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be,” said assistant coach Jeff Crouse.
AUSTIN BRUINS: The first-year Bruins went 1-3 at the Showcase Tournament, but one player who did impress was forward James Dickinson, a 19-year-old from Knoxville, Tenn. “James was our most consistent performer for the week,” said head coach Chris Tok. “He ended up leading our team in points (goal, two assists) because of his diligent work ethic and quickness.”
BISMARCK BOBCATS: Forward Charles Mosey, a 19-year-old from Prior Lake, Minn., led the Bobcats in Showcase scoring. He posted three goals and three assists and was also a plus-2 for the tournament.
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Two returning players led Owatonna’s offensive charge at the Showcase: forwards John Haeg, a 19-year-old from Lakeville, Minn., and Chris Bournazos, a 20-year-old from Naperville, Ill. Both connected for five points over the four games.