JANESVILLE – The Janesville Jets split their series with the Minnesota Magicians after a 3-1 victory on Saturday night. The team returns from Richfield in sole possession of first place in the North Division with 21 points.
The Jets dropped Friday’s contest 4-1 despite outshooting the Magicians 42-26, with 29 shots coming in the final two periods. Magicians goaltender Chris Amsden was perfect until Brandon Schultz put home a rebound on a third period power play for his seventh of the season. Matt Jurusik made 22 saves in the loss.
Minnesota went back to Amsden for Saturday’s game but was bested by newcomer Jared Rutledge, who stopped 26 of 27 pucks directed his way in his first NAHL game.
“(Rutledge) kept us in that game on Saturday,” said Jets head coach Joe Dibble. “There were times when we were pretty flat, gave up three-on-ones and breakaways, and he was cool as a cucumber in the net and just sucked everything up and didn’t give up too many second opportunities.”
Rutledge, a Chicago native, was acquired from the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers last week. He played in 10 games for the University of Michigan in the 2012-2013 season before joining the Gamblers. Dibble thinks Rutledge’s best quality is his work ethic.
“His compete level, everything he brings to the table, it’s just of a winner, and that’s something that’s gonna rub off on a lot of our guys,” Dibble said. “He’s a kid that has so much experience at this level and higher levels that it’s nice for us to have him, especially for Matt (Jurusik).”
The game-winning goal also came from a new face for this year’s Jets, but a few of the veterans might recognize Dan Kucerovy. Kucerovy played in 46 games for the Jets in the 2012-2013 season and nine games the following year. Dibble re-acquired the forward last week from the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, and appreciates his offensive ability.
“(Danny’s) a kid that has a good frame, some good size, skates extremely well, has a very heavy shot, and is one of those kids who’s gonna bring an offensive side to our hockey club,” said Dibble. “Losing Nicolas Erb-Ekholm was something we had to replace, and getting Danny back here, he knows our systems, he knows how we run things, so it’s an easy transition phase.”
Jets captain Drew Callin opened Saturday’s scoring late in the first period and added an assist on Kucerovy’s goal. Zach LaValle tallied an empty-netter for his team-leading ninth goal on the season. LaValle and Schultz are tied for the lead in points with 18.
Defense and goaltending have been the strengths of this year’s Jets team so far. Their 39 goals against are the fewest allowed in the division.
The Jets will travel to Pennsylvania to take on the Keystone Ice Miners this weekend before wrapping up their nine-game road trip with a Veteran’s Day matchup versus the Austin Bruins.