Just before the third period of Friday’s Midwest Division showdown with the Minnesota Magicians, Coulee Region Chill goaltender Todd Scott — a 16-year-old making his fourth career NAHL start — skated onto the ice with the rest of his teammates.
But before reaching his net, Scott slipped, wobbled and fell right on his backside in front of an estimated 500 fans at Green Island Ice Arena.
That, in many ways, summed up Coulee Region’s night perfectly. Despite quick starts in both the second and third periods, the Chill once again struggled at the back, allowing six or more goals in a single game for the fifth time this season in a 7-3 defeat.
“We call this getting punched in the mouth. We got punched in the mouth tonight,” Coulee Region coach Ryan Egan said. “Now we have to find way to bounce back and get two points tomorrow.”
After a torrid start to his NAHL career, Scott encountered his first bout of adversity Friday night, as he allowed two goals in each period before the Magicians sealed it with an empty-netter late in the third. Scott made his share of big saves, too, and finished with 30 on the night. But he struggled in containing Minnesota’s high-powered attack, which punished Coulee Region’s 16-year-old standout throughout.
“I didn’t think he was great, but I didn’t think he was terrible, either,” Egan said of Scott. “He still came up with a couple big saves. We hung him out to dry a couple times. The game just didn’t get started out well for him.”
Thanks to a pair of quick penalties, the Magicians seized control of the game early, as Will Hammer lit the lamp with a power-play goal at 5:51 of the first period. Cameron Buhl then doubled Minnesota’s lead just under 10 minutes later — a goal finished with a dramatic deflection — to send the Magicians into first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
“We just put too much on him at times,” Egan said of Scott. “That comes down to a lack of accountability at the back. It’ll be good to see how he bounces back from this.”
Minnesota may have finished each period strong, but Coulee Region enjoyed its best moments at the start of the second and third period.
The Chill flew out of the gate in the second period, turning a 15-8, first-period shots deficit into a 25-21 advantage before the 10-minute mark of the frame. That didn’t result in goals, however, as Jarrett Lee made it 3-0 for the Magicians at 9:16 before Joey Sofo opened the scoring for Coulee Region three minutes later.
“We just tried to play our game,” Minnesota coach Scott Meyer said. “In all honesty, there were a lot of chances both directions. Playing against Coulee is always an enjoyable game because they get up and down the ice, kind of like we do.”
Said Egan: “We were a little bit unlucky at times. At times, we were brilliant in this game, and there were times where I thought we deserved to actually win this hockey game. But the lack accountability in our own end was not good.”
Coulee Region enjoyed another flying start in the third, as quick goals from Sofo and Scott Corbett brought the Chill back within one at the 3:03 mark of the period.
But Minnesota goaltender Ivan Prosvetov — who recorded 39 saves — shut the door from there, and Magicians weren’t done scoring. A quick goal at 4:40 of the third period reopened a two-goal cushion for Minnesota, which then added two more down the stretch to ice it.
“We’d get moving forward, we’d over commit a little bit, and then it was in our own net,” said Egan, whose team travels for a 7 p.m., non-division game today at Austin. “It’s tough to swallow. Hopefully we can rebound from it quickly and come back tomorrow night with a good effort. It just makes tomorrow night that much more important.”