The Coulee Region Chill brought themselves to the cusp of playoff qualification Friday night.
With their ninth victory in 11 games, the Chill — now the league’s third highest-scoring team with 205 goals — strengthened their grip on fourth place with a resounding 8-3 victory over fifth-place Springfield at Green Island Ice Arena.
Now, with four regular-season games to play, Coulee Region boasts a six-point lead over the Junior Blues — who have just three games remaining — for the Midwest Division’s final playoff spot.
The Chill are just one point, or a Junior Blues loss, away from clinching a postseason berth. Both can be accomplished today when Coulee Region and Springfield play in a rematch at 7 p.m.
If the Chill win, they’re in.
Coulee Region’s Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup opened the scoring Friday with his 11th goal of the season. Matt Doran and Joey Sofo provided assists on the play, and Schmidt-Svejstrup made it 1-0 at 3:38 of the first period. Just over three minutes later, the Junior Blues equalized through Brennan Blaszczak, who leveled the score at 6:55 with his 23rd goal of the year.
Springfield and Coulee Region combined for 35 shots in the first period alone; the latter held a slight advantage with 18 of those shots. But the former snatched a 2-1 lead just 67 seconds into the middle frame, as Brandon Puricell took a feed from Jordan Muzzillo before giving the Junior Blues their only lead of the night at 1:07.
That lead was gone for good at 4:32.
It started with Billy Duma, a Division I Air Force recruit, who made it 2-2 for the Chill with his first goal in over two months. Just over four minutes later, Caleb Schroer — the league’s second-leading point scorer, who has produced a whopping 43 points over the last 28 games — put Coulee Region in front with his 24th goal of the year at 8:40.
Coulee Region’s Isaac Theisen then provided some insurance with another goal at 12:27, followed by another from Kevin Dineen, this time on the power play, inside the final minute of the period to make it 5-2 after 40 minutes.
Dineen added another goal, his 18th of the year, at 12:31 of the third, while Justin Kendall and Marshal Plunkett also got on the scoresheet — via empty-net goals — to secure Coulee Region’s second-highest single-game output of the year.
Coulee Region goaltender Brad Arvanitis was kept busy, to say the least, as he was peppered with 57 shots. He saved 54 — a season high for the Division I Massachusetts-Amherst recruit — in claiming his fourth victory in five starts.