By Mason Lyttle
With the Jets’ Road to the Robertson Cup beginning this Friday, April 14, janesvillejets.com provides a look in at the start of each series of a hopeful run.
What fans can expect is a general introduction to the two teams, coupled with vital statistics and keys to the series. In our player-specific sections, we will highlight Players to Watch that do not serve as the usual suspects – the best of the supporting cast or perhaps the darkhorse playoff warrior.
First for the Midwest Division Champions are their in-state rivals, the Coulee Region Chill.
Janesville Jets fans have again had much to celebrate.
After opening the season with a home sweep of the pesky Minnesota Wilderness, who eliminated the Jets in each of the past two postseasons, Janesville climbed to first in the NAHL’s Midwest Division and settled in. The highest-scoring team in franchise history made a habit of building early leads, and with two starting-caliber goaltenders in Jake Barczewski and Derek Schaedig, the wins piled up. The Jets clinched their division in March, earning the franchise’s second division crown in history, and second in three seasons. Joe Dibble and his staff have assembled a high-flying roster that exudes skill and boasts 10 Division I commitments. Winning has become a custom in Janesville, and this is a Jets team ready to push through and claim the franchise’s first Robertson Cup.
180 miles northwest, on the other side of this divisional matchup, it has been an exciting season for Coulee Region, too. First-year head coach Ryan Egan has given fans in La Crosse their third straight playoff appearance, thanks in large part to another high octane offense. The Chill boast the NAHL’s third-ranked attack, just four goals behind Janesville’s, and got a huge boost when USHLers Justin Kendall (20GP, 14-9–23) and Jacob Schmidt-Svejstrup (26GP, 15-12–27) joined the squad in January.
Game 1 | Friday, April 14 | Janesville Ice Arena | 7 p.m. CST
Game 2 | Saturday, April 15 | Janesville Ice Arena | 7 p.m. CST
Game 3 | Friday, April 21 | Green Island Ice Arena | 7 p.m. CST
*Game 4 | Saturday, April 22 | Green Island Ice Arena | 7 p.m. CST
*Game 5 | Sunday, April 23 | Janesville Ice Arena | 5 p.m. CST
Sat 10/15 | Chill 5 @ Jets 6 (OT)
Sat 11/26 | Jets 2 @ Chill 5
Fri 12/30 | Jets 2 @ Chill 1
Sat 12/31 | Chill 4 @ Jets 3 (SO)
Fri 1/6 | Chill 3 @ Jets 5
Sat 1/7 | Chill 4 @ Jets 5
Thurs 1/12 | Jets 6 @ Chill 2
Fri 2/17 | Jets 3 @ Chill 6
Sat 2/18 | Chill 2 @ Jets 4
Thur 3/23 | Chill 1 @ Jets 0
Thur 3/30 | Jets 5 @ Chill 3
Thur 4/6 | Jets 4 @ Chill 5 (OT)
|Janesville Jets||vs.||Coulee Region Chill|
|42-13-1-4 (89 points)||Record||31-27-2-0 (64 points)|
|224 (2nd)||Goals For||220 (3rd)|
|153 (5th)||Goals Against||220 (21st)|
|24.3% (1st)||Power Play||16.8% (18th)|
|82.7% (9th)||Penalty Kill||81.7% (13th)|
|Eliminated in MW Semi-Finals||2015-16 Playoffs||Eliminated in MW Semi-Finals|
|Peter Bates (24-32—56)||Leading Scorer||Caleb Schroer (26-41—67)|
|Michael Maloney (25-30—55)||Second Leading Scorer||Kevin Dineen (20-39—59)|
|Cullen Munson (20-35—55)||Third Leading Scorer||Joey Sofo (27-24—51)|
|Michael Maloney (25)||Top Goal Scorer||Joey Sofo (27)|
|Adam Roeder (7-25—32)||Top Scoring Defenseman||Steven Quagliata (11-38—49)|
|Jake Barczewski (27-6-0-0, 1.94, .929, 2 SO)||Top Goaltender||Brad Arvanitis (11-10-0-0, 3.25, .919, 0 SO)|
Key to the Series – Janesville Jets
Win the special teams battle: In 12 regular season matches against their rivals, the Chill have frozen the Jets’ lethal top-ranked power play. Against all other opponents, Janesville’s man advantage unit struck 49 times on 179 opportunities, good for a stunning 27.4% conversion. Against Coulee? 10 times on 64 chances: 15.6%. The Jets’ penalty kill also underperforms against the Chill: 80.3% versus 83.4%. If the Jets’ special teams units can get going in this series, it may be over quickly.
Key to the Series – Coulee Region Chill
Stretch the neutral zone: A big reason the Chill boast two of the division’s top three scorers is because of their forwards’ ability to get behind opposing defensemen in the neutral zone and create odd man rushes. Whether in a controlled breakout or in a quick transition, their forwards try to stretch the neutral zone east-west to sneak behind the play and develop quick chances. Coulee Region’s best shot at upsetting Janesville is to jump ahead to early leads, and perhaps their best opportunity to build those leads is by converting 2-on-1s.
Forward to Watch – Janesville Jets
LW Joey Abate (13-29—42): One of the Jets’ two Most Improved Player winners, Abate finished the season with six points in six games, including a 1-2—3 night in Coulee Region on Thursday, March 30th. With the Jets’ top line of Paskus-Maloney-Gates drawing minutes from oppositions’ top pairs, Abate has used his elite skating and excellent skill to provide valuable secondary scoring for Janesville. Whether it’s 5-on-5, shorthanded, or on the power play, the future Badger contributes in every situation.
Forward to Watch – Coulee Region Chill
LW Andy McGlynn (11-19—30): One of the Chill’s midseason acquisitions, the former Corpus Christi IceRay plays an agitating game on Coulee Region’s third line. With 30 points in 51 games between his two NAHL clubs, McGlynn is no plug either. The St. Louis native has tallied a point in four of his last six games against Janesville.
Defenseman to Watch – Janesville Jets
D Frank Sullivan (7-10—17): After missing seven games to mononucleosis, Sullivan jumped back into the lineup in late March. After getting his feet wet in a Tuesday game in Springfield, he went on a tear, picking up six points on a five-game point streak. A year ago, the defenseman racked up 118 penalty minutes in AHJL Grande Prairie. This season, with one more point than he had skating with the Storm, he cut his PIMs to 32. Sullivan is hitting his stride at the right time.
Defenseman to Watch – Coulee Region Chill
D Jackson Decker (3-15—18): Though undersized at 5’9″, Decker handles the puck well and generates more than his fair share of zone entries. Coulee Region boasts scoring defensemen Steven Quagliata (49pts), Matt Doran (34pts), and Marshal Plunkett (30pts), but Decker can generate just as well as his fellow blueliners, and could be pesky for the Jets’ neutral zone play.
Goaltender to Watch – Janesville Jets
G Jake Barczewski (35 GP, 27-6-0-0, 1.94 GAA, .929 SV%, 2 SO): While neither of Janesville’s goaltenders can boast above-average save percentages against Coulee Region, Barczewski’s accomplishments this season stand tall, even against historically good goaltending in Janesville. His .929 season save percentage ranks third in history behind the 2013-14 Logan Halladay campaign (.930) and the mind-boggling .939 that Matt Jurusik posted in 2014-15. Barczewski is aggressive and unflappable, and can steal a series if needed.
Goaltender to Watch – Coulee Region Chill
G Brad Arvanitis (22 GP, 11-10-0-0, 3.25 GAA, .919 SV%, 0 SO): The UMass recruit entered the scene in late December, and in his first NAHL game, suited up to face the Jets’ top-ranked offense. In a 2-1 loss, Arvanitis turned aside 37 of 39 shots. On New Year’s Eve, the next night, he stole a 4-3 shootout win, stopping 36 of 39. Arvanitis represents the Chill’s best chance to win. In his last 12 appearances, he holds a 9-3-0-0 record with a .929 save percentage.