Coulee Region Chill is currently on the outside looking in as it chases a playoff spot in the six-team, Central Division of the North American Hockey League.
Heading into play this weekend, the Chill is tied with the Aberdeen Wings for fifth place in the Central with 17 points, which is 6 back of the surging, fourth-place Minot Minotauros, who have turned it around big time under Canadian-born coach Marty Murray after winning only 7 of 60 games during the 2011-12 season.
At any rate, after struggling during the months of September and October, Coulee Region posted a November record of 4-4-2 and is 3-1-1 in its last five outings. Overall, the Chill takes a record of 6-12-5 into this weekend.
The Coulee Region turnaround has much to do with three players who were recognized by the NAHL with honourable mentions for November player-of-the-month at their respective positions: Goalie Blake Cates, forward Hunter Anderson and defenceman Derek Smith.
A 1994 birth year, Cates has taken over as the no. 1 goalie with the Chill, sporting a 4-5-2 record, 3.05 goals against average and .913 save percentage.
Also a 1994 birth year, the 6-foot-4, 215 pound Anderson -- interestingly, he was an outstanding defensive end during his high school football days -- is developing into a premiere NAHL power forward with the Chill. Not only does the rookie Anderson have 9 goals thus far this season but has a team-best, plus-minus rating of +9.
Smith, who was born in 1993, trails only Anderson on the Chill plus-minus chart with a +7.
John Hamre, who is in his first season as coach-general manager, is slowly changing the atmosphere and culture within the Chill dressing room. Gone are a number of malcontents who weren't willing to be part of the structure that Hamre has been building since being hired by the Chill shortly after new owner Michelle Bryant purchased the Coulee Region franchise this past summer.
Not only will there be a number of Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association scouts in Kalamazoo when the Jr. K-Wings play host to the Soo Eagles on Saturday afternoon but a member of the National Hockey League's New York Rangers will also be there. The focus of the Ranger scout's attention will be Eagles goalie Zach Nagelvoort. The 6-foot-2, 190 pound Nagelvoort has won his last 6 starts, allowing only 7 goals in the process. For the season, Nagelvoort, who is a 1994 birth year, has 6-3-1 record to go with a 1.84 goals against average and eye-popping, .942 save percentage. Nagelvoort has been teaming with 1992 birth year Tyler Marble -- who has a commitment to play at Division 1, Lake Superior State next fall -- to give the Eagles a 1-2 goaltending tandem that is the best in the North Division of the NAHL, if not the entire league...Eagles coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo was doing some cross-border scouting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Canada on Thursday night. Bragagnolo took in the AAA midget game between the Soo North Stars and visiting Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves. Among the North Stars that Bragagnolo had his eyes on as potential recruits for the 2013-14 season are 1995 birth year forwards Ryan Vendramin and Matt Pinder and 1996 birth year defenceman Nick Trecroce. Vendramin (Sarnia Sting) and Trecroce (Sudbury Wolves) are both Ontario Hockey League draft picks...On an Eagles team with offensive standouts Jared VanWormer, Eric Rivard, Robin Hoglund and Alexander Taulien, one lesser-known forward who has been elevating his game of late is 1993 birth year winger Kyle Loridon. After going scoreless in his first 16 games this season, Loridon has tallied twice in his last four outings and has impressed Coach Bragagnolo with his speed and physical play. "He's really coming on," Bragagnolo said of Loridon. "He's really picked up his game."...A scout with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings has been tracking a pair of 1995 birth year defencemen from the NAHL North: Alex Robert of the Eagles and Corey Schueneman of the Michigan Warriors.