The Coulee Region Chill were stunned last Saturday. First-year coach Ryan Egan said as much after his team’s 5-2 home loss to the Austin Bruins.
“We’re at home and we have a week to prepare,” Egan said Saturday night. “We got punched in the mouth, and we have to find a way to recover from it.”
They also have to find a way to keep pucks out of their own net.
That’s proven a difficult task for the Chill this season, and Saturday was no different. In front of an estimated crowd of 900 in their home opener, the Chill leaked five goals in a single game for the fifth time this season — a feat matched by just two other teams in the NAHL. Additionally, Coulee Region is one of three NAHL clubs allowing more than four goals per game, as their per-game clip of 4.18 ranks third worst in the league.
“We didn’t put our goaltender in a great spot a few times the other night,” Egan said. “We need to limit odd-man rushes. We gave up a few more odd-man rushes than we’d like to in a game, and we just didn’t take advantage of certain opportunities in the game where we had chances to score. We just didn’t. And then when (Austin) came down and took advantage of theirs, it was the difference in the game.”
Coulee Region’s defense can be criticized, but its goaltending also has been suspect.
New Brighton, Minn., native Joe Marcoullier is, for now, the Chill’s only qualified goaltender; NAHL goalies need 240 minutes to be included among the league’s statistical leaders.
And with 301 minutes to his name, Marcoullier has struggled.
His goals-against average of 3.98 is second worst among qualifying goaltenders — 36th overall — while his .868 save percentage ranks dead last. Marcoullier (3-2) has actually won more games than he’s lost, but his three victories have been coupled with substantial offensive support; he’s won 4-3, 5-3 and 7-4 results.
Unfortunately for the Chill, rookie goaltender Artur Pavliukov — a Klaipeda, Lithuania, native, and Coulee Region’s latest first-round draft pick — hasn’t fared much better.
Just nine minutes short of statistical qualification with 231 minutes on the year, Pavliukov, who took the loss Saturday against Austin, is allowing an average of 3.38 goals per game while managing a .910 save percentage. Those marks will rank 30th and 23rd in the league, respectively, after Pavliukov plays nine more minutes.
Those numbers need to improve, Egan said.
“There needs to be some more consistency. I will definitely say that,” Egan said of his goaltenders.
“You just tell them to keep competing. You find your moments in practice where you can get on them a little bit and hope they get the message. I do think both guys are feeling pressure right now. I think that they want to help this team win games, and they’re putting a lot of pressure on themselves. You can’t add to that too much.
“They know what their job is. It’s no secret. They have to stop pucks. We just have to find some consistency period to period and make sure that they’re doing their job and giving us an opportunity to win each night.”