One of the best rivalries in the North American Hockey League will be on full display this weekend, as the Chippewa Steel and Janesville Jets face off for three games in a home-home-and-home series this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The two teams have met five times already this season, with the most recent match-up last Thursday. The Jets improved their record on the Battle of Wisconsin series to 4-1 with an exciting 4-3 win, thanks to captain Carter Hottmann’s shootout goal.
Janesville currently has the edge in most aspects of the series. The Jets have 21 goals to Chippewa’s 12, are 4-for-15 on the power play and a near-perfect 17-for-18 on the penalty kill.
The Jets’ top scorers versus the Steel are Tommy Middleton, Cade Destefani, Nick Leyer and Carter Hottmann, with five points each. Chippewa’s Spencer Cox and Ethan Benz also have a team-best five points apiece against Janesville.
The Jets are currently on a three-game winning streak after they swept all of their games last weekend, while the Steel are looking to bounce back after a loss. Janesville recently regained first place in the Midwest Division, while Chippewa is in fifth place by nine points.
With a sweep of the weekend’s games, the Jets would be able to win back possession of the Blain’s Farm and Fleet Milk Can Trophy, which is given annually to the team who wins the series. Chippewa currently has the trophy with seven games left between the two.
The first and third games will be at Janesville Ice Arena at 7 p.m., while the middle outing is set for 7:10 p.m. in Chippewa.
Last Time Out
After the Jets pulled off the shootout win in Chippewa last Thursday, the team traveled to Richfield, Minn. to face the Magicians and looked to fight their way back to first place. The first game was as closely-matched as it gets and was tied 1-1 after 60 minutes, but hometown kid Charlie Schoen scored one of the most impressive goals of the season with two minutes remaining in overtime for the 2-1 victory. Saturday’s game went much differently. The Jets gained a two-goal lead after two periods, and really put their foot on the gas in the third. Janesville added four more goals in rapid succession and held the Magicians to zero for the 6-0 win. The Jets edged the Magicians by one point in the standings by earning six of six on the weekend and are currently in first place.
It would be easy to give most of the praise to the Jets offense for their performance last weekend, but some of the best action happened between the pipes. Riley Sims stopped 51 of 52 total Minnesota shots in the series, earned his third shutout of the season on Saturday and had back-to-back wins, which garnered him NAHL Midwest Division Star of the Week honors. Sims is 11-2-1 on the season and is the best goaltender in the Midwest Division with a 2.41 goals against average and .925 save percentage, which is also good for ninth-best in the league. Additionally, Sims and the team participated in a huge win off the ice with their efforts to help an infant with a medical emergency. The story, along with Sims’ on-ice performance, was covered this week in a story from the Janesville Gazette.
The Jets play their only home games of the month this weekend before hitting the road for two weeks for the team’s annual Alaska trip. They will first visit the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for a three-game series April 22-24, and then play at Kenai River April 29, 30 and May 1.