By Mason Lyttle
SPRINGFIELD, IL — On a debut night for more than a dozen rookies, including both coaches, it was the veterans who led the way.
Four goals from the Jets’ top line of Kip Hoffmann, Brendan MacLaren, and Matt Hanewall helped Janesville outlast the Springfield Jr. Blues in the 2017-2018 season opener on Saturday night, 5-3, for head coach Gary Shuchuk’s first NAHL win.
Springfield stole the early lead with a snipe from Shane Haviland, but Brendan MacLaren tied it up later in the period, putting home his first of the season from just a few feet out. With Erik Palmqvist serving a head contact minor and just 2.6 seconds left in the period, Janesville’s penalty kill broke down. Fletcher Fineman picked up a failed clear attempt and shoveled a backhander past Garrett Nieto to head to the locker room ahead 2-1.
In the second, defenseman Dawson Schwengler intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and found his forwards for an odd man rush. Matt Hanewall took the pass, sent it over to Kip Hoffmann on the left wing, and buried the puck when it returned for his first as a Jet, tying the game at 2-2. Just four minutes later, it was MacLaren turning defense into offense, stripping a Jr. Blues defenseman and quickly creating a 2-on-1 with Hanewall, who tucked in his second of the night and gave his Jets the 3-2 lead.
A low-zone defensive breakdown allowed for a relatively sustained Springfield cycle midway through the third, leading to the game-tying goal, again from Haviland. With less than six minutes to play, veteran winger Jakov Novak barreled up the left wing, made a smooth inside-outside move on his defender, and lifted a puck shortside for a beautiful goal, the eventual game-winner. Hoffmann would seal the Jets’ win with an empty netter.
Former Jr. Blue Garrett Nieto earned the win for Janesville, stopping 23 of 26 in his old barn. Michael Corson earned the loss, making 29 saves on 33 shots.