JANESVILLE, WI — Perhaps it was fitting to follow up the sloppy goal frenzy of last weekend with a methodical, defensive game.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence at all, but rather a sign of a team buying more into its system and showing the mid-season growth Jets fans are used to seeing.
The scoreboard read 3-0, and though tons of coaches across hockey will confirm that empty-net goals aren’t exactly empty calories, the reality is the Jets and the Ice Dogs played 19 minutes tied, and then 40 minutes of a one-goal game.
No matter how you see it, the Jets’ home win over Fairbanks, who has been a perennial thorn in Janesville’s side, felt like a game seen before at the Janesville Ice Arena. Hardly anything from Friday besides the uniform seemed different than a Matt Jurusik-led shutout from the 2014-15 defensively-stout, record-breaking Jets.
A little confidence-booster could be exactly what Janesville needs, though, as it prepares for a visit from the Minnesota Magicians, current Midwest Division leaders.
Minnesota hosted Kenai River last weekend in a three-game set. The Magicians dropped Thursday’s contest, but cranked out eight goals in a pair of 4-3 wins to steady their ship and prep for Janesville.
Across America, students are thirstily eyeing their holiday break, knowing that the only obstacle to clear is the toughest test of the semester.
Janesville’s Friday night win was a cram session for the exam series versus Minnesota.
FRIDAY — W, 3-0
Extremely tight team defense and impressive goaltending from both of the Midwest Division powers kept the game tense through 59 minutes, but in the end it was a goal from Jordon Halverson and a shutout from Cole Brady that beat Madison native Nate Reid and his Ice Dogs.
The only goal scored on a goaltender came with under a minute to go in the first period. Defenseman Jordon Halverson (19:05 1st) received a pass on the left wall, took a half step in, and wired a shot far side. Eau Claire native and spring 2018 tender Brenden Olson, skating in his first NAHL game, picked up his first NAHL point on the pass to Halverson.
Second period shot generation across the league shows about a 10% increase versus the rest of regulation, but Friday night’s tight checking dialed up in the “long change” period, resulting in just 14 total shots (8-6 for Fairbanks) despite six complete minutes of power play time (two chances for Janesville, one for Fairbanks).
The Jets absolutely clamped down in the final frame, suffocating the Ice Dogs’ attack in all three zones. Fairbanks was held to just four shots in the third period, and the Jets collected empty-netters from Brenden Olson (18:42 3rd) and Logan Ommen (19:08 3rd) to seal the victory.
Goaltender Cole Brady rebounded to his usual form in the 22-save shutout, his third of the season, winning Bauer Hockey Midwest Division Star of the Week honors. In the opposite net, Madison native Nate Reid stopped 17 of 18 shots in his first appearance in nearly a month.
Around the Division
Kenai River Brown Bears 2 @ Minnesota Magicians 1
Kenai River Brown Bears 3 @ Minnesota Magicians 4
Kenai River Brown Bears 3 @ Minnesota Magicians 4
Fairbanks Ice Dogs 6 @ Chippewa Steel 2
|3||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||28||15-10-1-2||33|
|4||Kenai River Brown Bears||29||11-15-2-1||25|
|5||Springfield Jr. Blues||25||10-12-2-1||23|
The Jets will hope to lean on more home comfort in this weekend’s battle against the division-leading Minnesota Magicians, whose seven-point gap could be cut to as few as three if things go right for Janesville.
First-year head coach AJ Bucchino, who won two WIAC Championships playing at University of Wisconsin-River Falls (2006 & 2007), has led Minnesota to new heights. The Magicians’ franchise-best finish of 3rd place with 69 points in the 2016-17 will become history if Bucchino and his group keep up their 89-point pace. Forward Cameron Buhl leads the Midwest Division in scoring with 30 points (10G/20A), and the two-headed goaltending monster of Jack Robbel (8-1-0-0; 1.76 GAA; .947 SV%) and Ethan Haider (11-5-0-0; 2.21 GAA; .929 SV%) has stifled some of the league’s best offenses.
Get ready for some great hockey.
Tickets are still available for both games of the weekend, which will conclude with the Jets’ fifth annual Teddy Bear Toss, sponsored this season by Dollar General.
The Teddy Bear Toss is a popular Christmas season staple for teams across junior hockey. Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears to the game, and to throw them onto the ice when the home team scores its first goal. The toys are then gathered up to be donated as Christmas presents to hospitals and charities. The tradition was started in 1993 by the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers.
For the Jets’ event, all bears and animals will be collected and donated to the Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots program and to inpatient pediatric patients at the Javon Bea Hospital on Mercyhealth Riverside Campus.
The Jets are also celebrating their 10th Anniversary Homecoming event on Saturday, and will feature guest appearances from former players and coaches.
On Friday night, Janesville native Ross Mauermann will make an appearance to help auction off a pair of specialty 10th anniversary jerseys with his retired number 7. Proceeds from the auctions will benefit Janesville Youth Hockey and the Janesville Bluebirds.
Both games start at 7:00pm and will feature Calvin Bush’s call on HockeyTV.com.
Magicians @ Jets | Fri Dec 14 | 7:00pm CST
Magicians @ Jets | Sat Dec 15 | 7:00pm CST