Prior to any game, it's not uncommon for Coulee Region Chill coach Ryan Egan to get a knock on his door from one of his goaltenders. Some nights, both goalies — Brad Arvanitis and Joe Marcoullier — approach his door simultaneously, both wanting a word.
Each time, their respective request is the same.
"It's a great thing when someone comes in the office and says, 'I want the net tonight,'" Egan said. "That's what's happening right now."
That's because both goaltenders are playing particularly well.
And they've picked the perfect time to do so. Ahead of the final weekend of the regular season — beginning with tonight's home clash against Midwest Division champion Janesville, Coulee Region's likely first-round playoff opponent — both Arvanitis and Marcoullier are discovering their best form of the season, and that form continues to pay dividends for the red-hot Chill. With three regular-season games remaining, Coulee Region locked up a playoff berth by sweeping Springfield at home last weekend.
That's a credit to the entire team, Egan said. But Coulee Region's goaltenders deserve special recognition, particularly considering the roller-coaster ride both have endured throughout the season.
"They've developed a confidence where they both just want the net, and that's what we've got. They both just want the net," Egan said of his goaltenders, both of whom are receiving ample playing time down the stretch.
"Is that because of each other? Probably, but because the team has kind of wrapped our arms around them a little bit and we're starting to win some games, they both just want it. That confidence is there for both of them.
"Both guys want to play. It's not, 'I want to beat Brad so I can play.' It's just, 'I'm feeling good, and I want the net.' And I think that's what's going on right now."
Arvanitis' recent hot streak yielded a Division I opportunity last week.
A Holliston, Mass., native, Arvanitis committed his collegiate future on March 30 to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst — located less than two hours from his hometown — to become the ninth Division I recruit on Coulee Region's active roster.
His recent play has warranted that kind of attention.
“He’s the real deal,” Egan said.
After an admittedly rocky start to his debut season, Arvanitis has elevated his game in a big way. Though he's still nine minutes short of statistical qualification, Arvanitis' save percentage (.921) ranks 10th among NAHL goaltenders, a mark buoyed over his last 10 starts — of which he has won eight — by an improved percentage of .934.
“There were some nerves at first,” said Arvanitis (10-9), who won just two of his first 10 starts.
“The first game I played here, I felt pretty good, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking to start for a new team. But you just have to work through it, battle back, and eventually you just get comfortable. And that’s what I am now. I’m comfortable with the team. Everyone’s been great in the locker room, the coaching staff here is great, and that just allows me to play my game.”
The same can be said for Marcoullier.
But Marcoullier’s journey has been even rockier at times. After making his first start for the Chill in September at the NAHL Showcase — a 3-2 win over Aberdeen — Marcoullier (13-5) struggled over his next seven starts, allowing four or more goals on four occasions before an injury kept him out for the next two months.
He made his return to the ice in mid-January, and has, at times, conceded goals that he later regrets. But he’s shown flashes of the potential that brought him to the Coulee Region, including a 40-save performance on March 23 at Janesville — the second highest-scoring team in the league — that led to the Chill’s only shutout of the year.
That kind of play makes him a viable candidate for the net every night.
“Ever since the injury, I feel like I’ve come back strong,” said Marcoullier, who started the year with the USHL’s Fargo Force. “I feel like I’ve been playing well, and Brad has, too. We’ve got two good goalies here. I want to play as much as I can, but we’ve had a lot of games in a short period of time recently, and we have more coming up with playoffs. I just want to continue taking advantage of every opportunity I get.”
Said Egan: “Brad and Joe have been really good for each other; really good for each other. What always happens when you win games is you build confidence. We feel like we can play either one of them right now and win a hockey game, and that's a good thing. They respect each other.
“We've made it very clear to both of them that we're not going to ride one guy out. They're both going to play.”