JANESVILLE, WI — Friday’s weather in Janesville was some of the best we’ve seen since the snow decided to cease *knock on wood*. It was the annual End of Season tailgate, the sun was shining, and the mood was upbeat. A perfect prerequisite and foreshadowing of what would go on inside the doors of the Janesville Ice Arena later that night. Annelies Bergmann made history by throwing on her Team USA leg pads, blocker, trapper, and all-white mask and skating on to become the first female to ever play in a USA Hockey Tier I or II hockey game. Despite the loss, “Bergy” took full advantage of the opportunity in front of her and showcased her exceptional talent and why this was more than deserved.
The Jets came out firing in the opening frame of the contest, putting a whopping 21 shots on goal, but Springfield netminder Aksel Reid stopped each one with some help from his defensemen to clear the paint. Given the glaring difference, one would think that the Jr. Blues were suffocated in their own end, weathering the Jets’ turbulence, but that was not the case.
Springfield took the game’s first penalty just past the halfway point of the first, giving Janesville a seemingly great advantage with their offense buzzing, but a turnover at the blue line sprung a breakaway and a shorthanded goal for the Jr. Blues. The first grade-A chance that Bergmann had to face was the most difficult of them all, and while on the power play, it was easily unexpected.
Another penalty was called on the road team four minutes after the Springfield goal, sending the Jets again to the power play, but again, the Jr. Blues managed to find an opening. Just as the advantage began, Springfield created a turnover, went on a 2-on-1 rush, and scored on a backdoor pass placed perfectly by Isaac Keller for Alex Fendler. It was another near-impossible chance to make a stop for Bergmann and was the second shorthanded goal of the night and the last goal the Jr. Blues scored.
Janesville finally found the back of the net just before the halfway point of the second period on a point shot from Conner Brown, his seventh of the year, to get the Jets to within one. Gustav Portillo and Matt Hale added assists on the goal. The Jets continued to pressure Reid through the second period, finishing with 11 shots on goal in the frame.
With 32 shots heading to the third, the Jets had a full head of momentum and easily had the upside in advantages, but Aksel Reid put up another flawless period. With 15 saves on 15 shots, the Jr. Blues and their netminder managed to stave off the late push from the Jets and hang on to win 2-1. Reid finished the night with 46 saves on 47 shots, and the only two goals came shorthanded for Springfield.
While a win would’ve been a great bonus to round out the night, Annelies Bergmann still showed up in a big way in the crease. She made 22 saves on 22 even-strength shots, and the only two goals allowed were shorthanded breaks for the opposition. Bergmann’s best save of the night came early in the first period on a mini-breakaway on the left wing, a snapshot from just below the circle that forced the Cornell commit to make a tough save with the glove. Bergmann made the stop and was greeted with a loud ovation from the 1,015 fans that packed the stands.
“She [Annelies] gave us a chance to win; she kept us in it to the end,” said Jets Head Coach Joe Dibble. “Her confidence in her game fed to our guys to push to get that second goal, and you saw it in the shots department. She proved that she’s more than capable to play at this level.”
Postgame, Bergmann could only take a step or two before she was met with fans, male and female, young and old, asking for a photo, an autograph, or even a hug, to which Annelies happily obliged. At the end of the night, the scoreboard didn’t matter. It was an incredible night not just for the Jets faithful, not just for Annelies, but for the sport of hockey. It was a statement for all to heed, which should be loud and clear after a big night for Bergy.
The Jets will wrap up the 2022-23 season with one more matchup with the Springfield Jr. Blues tonight. The final night features Free Kids Night, sponsored by Blain’s Farm & Fleet, and is Billet Appreciation Night. Puck drop is at 7 PM CT, and doors will open at 6 PM CT.