JANESVILLE, WI — The Jets played spoiler to the home-ice advantage hopes of the Springfield Jr. Blues last weekend, downing their rival 4-2 on Friday night to eliminate the Jr. Blues from contention for second place in the Midwest Division. Janesville followed up with a two-goal comeback Saturday night that was just shy of completion, but picked up a point in the overtime loss.
The standings points were of no real importance to the Jets, who had already been finalized as the division’s fourth seed going into the opening round of the Robertson Cup Playoffs, but there are some non-statistical effects from the strong weekend. In addition to spoiling Springfield’s second-place hopes, the Jets’ three-point weekend built some confidence on both the team and individual platforms.
On the players’ side, Cole Brady turned in another textbook, solid performance Friday night. The NHL Draft hopeful stopped 27 of 29 for his 21st win of the season. Fast-developing defenseman Nick Gonrowski opened Friday’s scoring with his first NAHL goal. Matt Hanewall potted another pair to hit the 20-goal mark on the season, and newcomer Parker Lindauer picked up Friday’s game-winning goal. Lindauer would tally an assist Saturday, creating a three-game point streak, and fellow ’19-20 tender Robby Newton scored Saturday’s game-tying goal in the third period. Boston University commit Sean Driscoll scored Saturday for his 29th point of the season, a mark hit only three times in the last four seasons by Jets defensemen (Carter Ekberg in ’17-18, Adam Roeder in ’16-17). Forward Luke Wheeler snapped an eight-game scoring drought, and the Jets’ best Saturday performance came from Sam Metcalf, who made several eye-catching saves en route to a 45/49 evening.
On March 28th, the Jets dropped a 4-2 contest to the Minnesota Magicians, upping a winless streak to seven games. While there was some self-assurance in how the team had performed in the last couple of games of that stretch, those final three games of the season were marked even bolder. The Jets were running out of regular season minutes to right the ship and pick up steam. They needed a big three games, and they sure got it.
No matter the sport, and no matter the level of play, there’s a widely-held notion that teams entering the postseason with momentum are the horses to bet on. Regular season performance can show you a lot about a team, but anything goes in the postseason, and the biggest wildcard is confidence. The ’17-18 Minot Minotauros finished fourth place in the Central Division with 62 points, and strung together one of the most impressive Robertson Cup runs in recent memory. They survived a five-game thriller versus the first-seed Aberdeen Wings, swept the Austin Bruins to punch their ticket to Blaine, and knocked out the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Semifinals. They fell just one goal short of the ultimate prize, but the energy and confidence of that group was felt everywhere, and it’s certainly an attitude that these Jets will hope to match.
The three-time Robertson Cup Champion Fairbanks Ice Dogs await the Jets in the opening round of the postseason. janesvillejets.com this week will take a close look at the series, a rematch of each of the last two Midwest Division Finals.
First, a look at the weekend in Springfield.
FRIDAY — W, 4-2
Janesville never trailed in Friday’s win, scored in each period, and won the battle on the shot clock on their way to a 4-2 victory.
Opening the scoring for Janesville was Nick Gonrowski (2:52 1st) with his first NAHL goal. Gonrowski started the Jets’ breakout and joined the rush, driving the center lane over the attacking blue line and tipping home a pass from Nicholas Nardella to give the Jets the early lead.
The Jets outshot the Jr. Blues 15-6 in the middle frame, but a power play goal from Caden Villegas (4:23 2nd) briefly tied the game at 1-1. A minute later, a dominant shift from the Jets trapped a group of tired Jr. Blues in their own zone. The second period switch gave the Jets a short change into the offensive zone, and after several quality scoring chances, Matt Hanewall (5:33 2nd) came off the bench, picked off a pass, and roofed the go-ahead goal. Hanewall wasn’t done yet. Later in the period, he scored the eventual game-winner (12:53 2nd), his fifth goal in two games, by outworking a Jr. Blues defenseman underneath the goal line and tucking a backhand wraparound past Jack Williams, who was relieved after the goal. Williams’ night ended at 17/20, and Henry Graham saw his first NAHL action finishing the game for the Jr. Blues.
Springfield got back to within one late in the third when Sam Sterne (13:57 3rd) scored his third of the season, but an insurance marker from Parker Lindauer (15:40 3rd) sealed the win for the Jets. Nick Nardella entered the zone with speed, and Philip Bjorkman picked up the puck on the wall to throw it on net, where Lindauer redirected it past Graham.
Cole Brady (21-17-1-3) allowed just two goals on 29 shots, the 23rd time this season he kept the opposition to two or fewer. Jack Williams (21-13-2-1) was tagged for the loss, and Henry Graham (0-0-0-0) stopped 11 of 12 in relief.
SATURDAY — OTL, 4-3
The Jets took the early lead Saturday and got stellar goaltending from Sam Metcalf, but fell just short of completing a two-goal comeback, dropping an overtime contest in game #60 of the regular season.
Janesville’s power play took the game’s first lead with a bomb of a shot from Sean Driscoll (9:21 1st), finding its way through a Cale McCoshen screen and past the goaltender Henry Graham. The Jr. Blues’ man advantage struck later on a goal from Caden Villegas (15:43 1st), and a tally from former Jet Ben Schmidling (19:59 1st) came with a tenth of a second left in the period. A shot wide of the net rebounded off the end wall and came behind the net to Schmidling, who was waiting backdoor for his 37th of the season.
Another wonky goal opened the second period, this time from Nick Techel (1:49 2nd). Techel drove into the corner for a loose puck and slapped it on net from a bad angle. It trickled in to double the Jr. Blues’ lead. A couple of minutes later, Luke Wheeler found himself in the right place at the right time, driving the net to smack in an easy rebound for his third NAHL goal.
The third period opened friendlier for the Jets. Matt Hanewall won an offensive zone draw, and Robby Newton (0:30 3rd) came crashing from the far wing to steal a rebound from Graham and tuck his second NAHL goal, tying the game at 3-3. The Jets’ penalty kill came up strong in two late period situations, forcing overtime and a point for both sides.
The overtime period featured spectacular saves from Sam Metcalf and some now old-fashioned four-on-four thanks to a pair of coincidental minors. With less than 20 seconds to the start of a shootout, a rebound goal from Max Brainin (4:41 OT) finished the regular season for both teams.
Henry Graham (1-0-0-0) earned his first NAHL win in his first NAHL start, stopping 28 of the Jets’ 31 shots, including all four in overtime. Sam Metcalf (8-9-1-1) was challenged with plenty of work, but turned in an impressive 45-save performance despite the loss.
Around the Division
Chippewa Steel 2 @ Minnesota Magicians 6
Minnesota Magicians 3 @ Chippewa Steel 4 (OT)
|1||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||60||37-16-3-4||81|
|3||Springfield Jr. Blues||60||33-22-4-1||71|
|5||Kenai River Brown Bears||60||23-31-3-3||52|
The Jets fly out Wednesday to Fairbanks, Alaska, to open their 2019 Robertson Cup Playoffs schedule.
The opening two rounds of the Robertson Cup Playoffs are all entirely played within the divisional brackets, and each round is a best-of-five series.
Game 1 and Game 2 will be played at the Big Dipper Ice Arena this Friday and Saturday. Depending on the outcome in those games, the series will follow a contingency schedule outlined below.
Midwest Division Semifinals
(1) Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs. (4) Janesville Jets
Game 1 — Friday, April 12 @ Fairbanks — 10:30pm CDT
Game 2 — Saturday, April 13 @ Fairbanks — 10:30pm CDT
If Janesville wins ONE OR BOTH of Game 1 & Game 2
Game 3 — Sunday, April 14 @ Fairbanks — 8:00pm CDT
Game 4 — Friday, April 19 @ Janesville — 7:00pm CDT
Game 5 — Saturday, April 20 @ Janesville — 7:00pm CDT
If Fairbanks wins BOTH Game 1 & Game 2
Game 3 — Friday, April 19 @ Janesville — 7:00pm CDT
Game 4 — Saturday, April 20 @ Janesville — 7:00pm CDT
Game 5 — Sunday, April 21 @ Janesville — 3:00pm CDT
All regular season ticket rates will freeze as playoff ticket prices. Adult tickets are $9, while senior (60+), children (5-14), student, and military tickets are $7. Any undated ticket vouchers from the 2018-19 season will be accepted at the door. Additionally, all tickets pre-ordered online before Thursday, April 18th at 5:00pm CDT can be purchased for $5 each. All games will be broadcast on HockeyTV.com.
This year’s Jets vs. Ice Dogs matchup is the third in as many seasons, and the first edition in the Midwest Division Semifinals. The Jets downed the Ice Dogs in the 2016-17 Midwest Division Finals, and Fairbanks edged Janesville in a nail-biting five-game set in last season’s Finals.
A special indoor tailgate party is scheduled for Friday, April 19th, ahead of the Jets’ tentative home game. Sponsored by your local Madison Toyota dealers and Labatt Blue, the Jets and Curt’s Conquest for a Cure will serve up hot dogs and beer starting at 5:30pm. Beer is free to fans 21 or older with a Jets ticket, and hot dogs are free for all ages with a Jets ticket. Special raffle items and tip jars that night will benefit Curt’s Conquest for a Cure, a local cycling group dedicated to raising money for multiple sclerosis research.
Jets @ Ice Dogs | Fri Apr 12 | 10:30pm CDT
Jets @ Ice Dogs | Sat Apr 13 | 10:30pm CDT
Jets @ Ice Dogs | Sun Apr 14 | 8:00pm CDT*