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Pre-Game Notes: Games 36 & 37 — Jets @ Wilderness

By Mason Lyttle

The Jets were able to pull within one goal of Coulee Region last Saturday in La Crosse, but a late start ultimately sank them as they were unable to finish the comeback against their in-state rivals, losing 3-2. Another active weekend in the Midwest Division saw Springfield jump ahead of Janesville for sole possession of third place in the standings, but the Jets will soon cash in on their three games in hand on the Jr. Blues as we round the corner on the final third of the season.

 


 

 

 

This weekend Janesville enjoys another Friday off, but will play Saturday and Sunday series in Cloquet, Minnesota as they battle the second-place Wilderness.

Jets (20-12-3) @ Wilderness (25-11-3)

vs. Minnesota this season:  4-2-0

in Janesville: 2-2-0

in Minnesota: 2-0-0

1-goal games: 3-1-0

 


 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Turning tides: The Wilderness, who with last year’s Robertson Cup Semi-Finals sweep in Janesville eliminated the Jets’ playoff hopes, had gone until late November of this season without a single loss in franchise history to the Jets. In a series beginning on Black Friday, Janesville beat back its burgeoning rival in a pair of 3-2 extra time victories. The Jets would later take a clean four points from the Northwoods Credit Union Arena to end 2015 with wins of 5-2 and 4-3 over the Wilderness.

Special teams specialists: Joe Dibble’s Jets will likely lean on winning even strength battles to come out of Cloquet with any success. In six games versus Janesville this year, the Wilderness’ league-best power play unit has struck six times on 21 chances, good for a 28.6% clip, even higher than their season rate of 25.2%. In addition, their penalty kill, whose 86.5% effectiveness ranks fourth in the NAHL, has killed 19 of 21 penalties, or 90.5% of chances, also higher than their season average.

Race to tres: The first team to score its third goal of the contest has won each game of this season series. With both clubs boasting tight defensive systems and talented goaltenders, this weekend’s games might prove no different. All four goalies – Janesville’s Jack LaFontaine (2.18) and Blake Weyrick (2.44), and Minnesota’s Luke Kania (2.13) and Chase Munroe (2.24) – rank in the top-13 netminders in the NAHL by goals against average.

Forest fire: After running into a red-hot Coulee team, Janesville gets no break with the Wilderness and their recent play. Since surrendering a home sweep to the Jets to end 2015, Minnesota has won six of its seven games played this calendar year, including an impressive 5-3 victory last Saturday over Fairbanks to end its Alaska road trip with six of a possible eight points.

Start on time: Minnesota boasts a 21-1-0 record when opening the scoring, compared to a 4-10-3 record when having to mount a comeback. Further, when taking a lead into the final frame of play, the Wilderness are unbeaten in 19 games this season.

Captain birthday: For the second straight year, Jets captain Alex Smith will suit up for a game on his birthday. Last year, the Jets took a 6-4 victory over the Soo Eagles on January 31st in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Smith, who didn’t register a point in last year’s birthday win, will turn 21 on Sunday in Cloquet.

IN THE STANDINGS

TEAM

GP

W

L

OTL

PTS

Fairbanks

39

30

5

3

63

MN Wilderness

39

25

11

3

53

Springfield

38

20

14

4

44

Janesville

35

20

12

3

43

Coulee Region

35

17

18

0

34

Kenai River

39

3

35

1

7