Though they never trailed in the contest, the Jets surrendered a 3-1 lead they gained after a period of action when the Brown Bears scored on the power play with just over three minutes left in the third period to tie the game at three. Neither team scored during the three-on-three overtime period, which took things to a shootout where Jan Lasak scored in the fourth round to send the Jets home with two points.
Janesville didn’t take too long to open the scoring, only six and a half minutes after AJ Casperson displayed some nifty moves down into the right faceoff circle and fired a wrist shot home to put the Jets up 1-0. “Mack [Keryluk] hit me with a pass at the blue line, I made a move to my backhand, and took the shot,” Jets defenseman AJ Casperson said. “I probably could’ve passed back door to one of my teammates,” Casperson said with a chuckle, “but the far side was open, I had a good lane in a good area, so I knew that was the best play.” The Long Island University commit now has 17 points on the season.
Bryce Monrean brought the game to a 1-1 deadlock at the 11-minute mark with his 6th goal of the season, a shot sent to the net of D’Orazio from the short side that just squeaked past the Jets netminder.
The Jets saved some energy for late in the period and, with 59 seconds left, scored to break the tie. A drawn-up play off a faceoff win sprang William Gustavsson and Arsenii Smeknov on a 2-on-0, and the two foreign-born forwards did not miss a beat. Gus received a perfect stretch pass from Robby Newton and made the backdoor pass to Smek, who pounded home his fifth goal of the year.
“We caught them off guard on a great set breakout, Robby [Newton] made a great pass to Gus, and Gus wasn’t selfish and gave me an empty net,” Smekhnov said. The Russian forward has scored in back-to-back games. Gustavsson added his 13th assist of the year, and the UW-commit in Newton recorded assist number 14.
Janesville was unsatisfied with a one-goal lead and added another to their count 34 seconds later. Fresh off a highlight reel weekend against Anchorage, leading scorer Cy LeClerc scored his 20th (yes, 20th) goal of his 2021-22 campaign after dangling through the defense, pouncing on his rebound in the slot, and rifling a snapshot into the net to become the fastest Jet in franchise history to 20 goals.
“Their defenseman came at me, they had a stick on me, but I fought through it, got a shot on net, the rebound kicked out to the right of the goal, and I followed up the play and buried it,” LeClerc said. “It was a nice play. To get those two goals right before intermission was great, and it clearly was big for us in the long run tonight.” LeClerc stands as the third-best scorer among rookies with 37 points in 31 games and third overall in goals.
The Brown Bears got to within a goal at the halfway point of the second period after Kaden Hjelm scored his fourth goal of the year while on the power play. D’Orazio made the initial save on a shot between the faceoff circles, but a rebound bounced out to Hjelm, who sent it home.
Another period’s worth of hockey went by before the game saw another goal, which came again on the power play for Kenai River. After they had initially pulled their goaltender with under four minutes to play, the Jets took a penalty that allowed the Brown Bears to go to a man advantage and keep their net guarded.
At the 16:22 mark, Caden Triggs stepped into a snapshot from the slot that rattled off the left post and in to tie the game at three. Cole Dubicki added an assist on the score, his 27th of the year, bringing his point to 40 on the year, third-best overall in the league.
With the score three apiece, the game went to a five-minute, three-on-three overtime period for the second night in a row in Janesville. The Jets won the previous OT matchup against the Anchorage Wolverines thanks to Jonah Aegerter playing the hero under a minute into extra time.
In the five-minute period, no winner was decided, so things continued into a shootout. D’Orazio and Kenai goaltender Tommy Aitken traded saves for the first three rounds, along with one more save from Mikey to start round four, before Jan “Zigi” Lasak put a wrist shot past Aitken to win it in his first game back in Janesville.
“It was great being back with the boys. I missed being with them on the ice, and getting it done like this was great,” said the shootout hero, Lasak. “Every game from here on out is important now, it doesn’t matter who we play. Every single point matters and I’m confident that we can make that push to the playoffs.” With the rest of the league off on Thursday night and the Jets securing two points, they now sit just seven points outside the last playoff spot in the Midwest division.
Perhaps the bigger story of the night was Jets goaltender Michael D’Orazio turning in a stellar night between the pipes, recording 42 saves, plus four more in the shootout, to backstop his team to a challenging and gutsy win. After being pulled during last Saturday’s game against Anchorage, this was a big night and a monumental bounce-back for the Canadien netminder.
“This night was huge. I just tried to take it shot by shot, keep the past in the past, keep a positive mindset, and it worked well tonight,” D’Orazio said. His 42 saves in the win were the most in a game this season. “The boys got a few quick ones in the first to start things off; that helped for sure, but it was a good game overall, a great team win.”
“Mike [D’Orazio] was the story tonight,” Jets head coach Parker Burgess said. “If we had one guy tonight who was really going, it was Mike. He faced some adversity last weekend, but for a guy as young as him to overcome that adversity and have the game he had tonight, he won the game for us without a doubt.”
The Jets will square off with the Brown Bears again on Friday night, Hockey BINGO night sponsored by the Janesville Athletic Club. Doors open at 6 pm, followed by puck drop at 7. Tickets can be purchased on our Facebook page, at the entrance of the arena, or any Lions Quick Mart around Janesville.