It could have gone one of two ways.
Make the play, and you look like a stud. Miss it, and you’re a goat. That’s the dilemma Coulee Region Chill forward Larry Jungwirth faced during the third period of last weekend’s Midwest Division hockey clash against the Janesville Jets.
Jungwirth produced the former outcome.
With an early play-of-the-year nominee, Jungwirth clinched a crucial victory with one of the best assists you’ll see all season. After recovering a loose puck in his defensive zone, Jungwirth glided into space down the far side of the ice, closing in on goal with teammate Scott Corbett rushing to the back post. Then, in a flash, Jungwirth faked a right-handed slap shot, spun, and placed a perfectly measured backhand pass for Corbett, who scooped the puck into the net with his first touch. That goal proved the winner in an important 5-2 victory at Green Island Ice Arena that kept the Chill within striking distance of first place.
Jungwirth’s assist was later named the NAHL’s top play of the week.
“Obviously I was pretty excited, but it’s really one of those high-risk, high-reward plays,” Coulee Region coach Ryan Egan said. “You make that play, you look like a hero. And if you don’t make that play, everyone’s thinking, ‘What were you doing out there?’ But I’ll be honest with you. I’m glad he was successful with it. It was a big goal.
“I think any time you can score highlight-reel goals like that, it gives your bench a jump, and I think it gave us a jump moving forward in that game.”
Egan hopes that spark continues into this weekend, which is another important one for the Chill.
Still third place in the Midwest Division, Coulee Region takes on the second-place Minnesota Magicians in a home-and-home series, beginning with a 7 p.m. home date Friday at Green Island. The Chill are still six points behind Minnesota, but with five games still in hand, they’re well positioned to make a move in the next few weeks.
That move could be expedited with a few good results this weekend.
“I think Saturday was a big confidence builder. I think any time you can beat a quality team like Janesville, you feel like you can beat anybody. That’s the message all week, that these are big games,” Egan said. “These aren’t two-point games. These are four-point swing games because they’re in division. You win, you gain two. If you lose, you lose ground and two points. So there’s really eight points at stake this weekend, we think. Hopefully that message sinks in and they take it to heart and fight for it.”
The Chill are 2-2 against the Magicians, but their last meeting was particularly rough. Minnesota scored at least two goals in each period en route to a 7-3 road win at Green Island. The result that still isn’t sitting well with Coulee Region.
But dwelling on the past won’t accomplish anything for the Chill, who will need to focus over the next few weeks.
“It’s just such a crucial time in our season right now with three weeks to go until Christmas break,” Egan said. “You typically will see a lull in this time as kids mentally start looking toward break. So hopefully we can find a way to continue to play with urgency here over the next few weekends and find a way, with these games in hand, to put ourselves in a good spot coming back from break.”