It took a relocation from Mason City, Iowa, and 10 games into the regular season for the Coulee Region Chill to christen its Onalaska, Wis., home, but it was worth the wait.
Formerly the North Iowa Outlaws, the Chill was greeted to a crowd of well over 1,000 for its home opener at the Omni Center on Friday and, despite a loss at the hands of Aberdeen, there was still plenty of spirit in the building.
“It was great finally being at home,” said Chill head coach Garrett Strot, whose team picked up a point the following night in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Wings. “The town was excited, and so were our kids. The atmosphere in the rink was great.”
Tim Motz, the Chill’s director of operations, echoed those sentiments.
“The fans were great,” said Motz. “They had a lot of fun at the games, and they erupted on Saturday when we scored our first goal (off the stick of forward Scott Bell) and the next three were just as loud.”
After a strong start to its season, including a 3-0-1 mark at September’s NAHL Showcase Tournament followed by three more victories, October didn’t bring the Chill as much good fortune; it finished the month at 2-4.
“The last few weeks we’ve had breakdowns in our own end,” said Strot. “We need to shore up our D-zone coverage and we’ve been working on that a lot recently.”
The schedule hasn’t done the Chill any favors, either. Coulee Region has only played 12 games to date, tied for fewest in the league with Central foe Austin.
“Having that stretch where we played every other weekend was tough,” said Strot. “The weeks with no games were hard to keep the kids focused.”
Two players who have stayed dialed in are Blaine, Minn., product Matt Blomquist, a defenseman named to the NAHL Top Prospects Tournament, and forward Micky Knox, a Warroad, Minn., native.
Both 19-year-olds have seven points through 12 games and, according to Strot, are making significant strides every time they take the ice.
“Matt’s been very steady and offers some offense from the blue line,” said the coach. “And Micky, who had a very good season last year, is off to another good start. He worked hard to improve his speed over the offseason and it shows.”
Forward Berkley Scott, a 20-year-old from Anoka, Minn., is also drawing Strot’s praise. The NAHL veteran has four goals and four assists through 11 games this season.
“He’s probably one of the most skilled players in the league,” Strot said.
Paul Moberg, another Top Prospects Tournament selection, continues to prove himself as one of the NAHL’s best goaltenders. The 19-year-old college hopeful from Forest Lake, Minn., holds a 6-2-2 mark on the season to go along with a 2.24 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.
“Paul’s been consistent all year,” said Strot. “He’s getting a lot of Division I looks.”
The Chill will be able to settle into its home surroundings over the next couple of weekends. It hosts Alexandria for a pair of games this weekend before welcoming the Bruins to town the weekend of Nov. 12-13.
“I like our team, but it’s early and we’re certainly not where we need to be yet,” said Strot. “We’re in a tough division, and we need to continue to work on getting better if we’re going to keep up with the rest of the pack.”
CENTRAL DIVISION REPORT
ABERDEEN WINGS: Only 17, Cory Ward continues to impress offensively. The forward from Las Vegas put away three more points in a two-game sweep over Coulee Region last weekend and has 21 on the season. He has points in his last six games (14).
ALEXANDRIA BLIZZARD: Forward Nardo Nagtzaam scored the Blizzard's only goal in its 5-1 loss to Bismarck on Friday. The Netherlands native continues to lead the team in scoring with 18 points on seven goals.
AUSTIN BRUINS: Plano, Texas, native Jordan Greenburg tallied his first two goals of the season in Austin’s 5-1 victory over Owatonna on Friday. The 19-year-old has four points through eight games.
BISMARCK BOBCATS: Five different players scored for the Bobcats in their 5-1 triumph over Alexandria on Friday. Forward Sam Dougherty, a 20-year-old from Green Bay, Wis., notched the game-winner.
OWATONNA EXPRESS: Air Force recruit Ben Persian, 19, came through with two goals and an assist as the Express doubled up Austin on Friday, 6-3. The Orono, Minn., native leads the team in scoring with 17 points (11 goals).