The window of opportunity is there for the Coulee Region Chill, but the split second before they are able to capitalize, the opponent slams it shut.
The Minnesota Magicians were the latest team to send the Chill to a heartbreaking loss, a 3-2 game played before about 450 fans Thursday night at Green Island Ice Arena.
It was the fifth straight loss for a team that seems on the brink of busting loose but can’t find the thing — tangible or intangible — to make it happen.
“It is frustrating, it is frustrating. Honestly, we needed to take advantage of a couple of opportunities early in the game,” said Chill second-year coach Ryan Egan. “At times we had chances and we were not opportunistic enough. If we could have gotten a goal early, we could have gotten some momentum going. It is a frustrating one.”
The Chill gave up two second-period goals, but cut the deficit in half when Tyler Ebner scored. With the free-flow way the game was going, it seemed the Chill might be on track to snap their skid.
It sure seemed that way when Tomas Vochozka knotted the game at 2 at the 8:35 mark. Vochozka blew into the Magicians’ zone, abruptly put on the brakes, then unleashed a wicked shot that seemed to catch Minnesota goalie Isaiah Saville a bit by surprise.
The puck jetted by Saville, stick side, and the crowd had something to cheer about. And they did.
For about three minutes, that is.
Minnesota’s Calvin Dybicz changed things in a big-time way when he rushed down the center of the ice, right at Zetterquist. For some reason the Chill defense let him skate in, untouched, and fire a rocket that beat Zetterquist for what proved to be the game-winner at the 6:18 mark.
The Chill pulled Zetterquist with 2 minutes left in favor of another attacker, but Saville turned back three tough shots to preserve the Magicians’ win.
It was another tough loss for the Chill to swallow.
“When we tie it, we can’t get too high and when we are down, we can’t get too down,” said Ebner, a former Onalaska High School standout who had a goal and assist. “That is where we are struggling right now. When we get too up, we get lackadaisical, we lose guys (defensively), like the rush on the goal.
“We were watching the puck, we lose a guy, he goes in and he scores. That is tough. It was a defensive letdown.”
After a scoreless first period in which each team fired 11 shots — none of which made the official scorer think about reaching for a pen — the action picked up in the second. Unfortunately for the Chill, much of the action was in their own zone in the first half of the period, and the Magicians made Coulee Region pay.
Davis Kirkendall skated in — untouched — and beat Zetterquist top shelf after taking a perfect pass from Valentino Passarelli. Ethan DeStafani also assisted on the bang-bang goal at the 5:36 mark.
The way the game was being played in such a defense-first way, Kirkendall’s goal was big. Less than 3 minutes later, Cameron Buhl made it 2-0 and the Chill seemed in a hole that was seemingly too deep to climb out of.
Ebner changed that when he beat Magicians’ goalkeeper Isaiah Saville at the 12:31 mark, cutting Minnesota’s lead in half. Jackson Decker and Billy Duma assisted on Ebner’s sixth tally of the season.
Coulee Region, which has struggled offensively — at times — during is four-game skid, appeared to tie it at the 14:40 mark, but the goal was waived off by the officials, who ruled it was high sticking.
Zetterquist, a 6-foot-1, 182-pound goalie from Stockholm, Sweden, stopped 19 of 21 shots over the first two periods.