JANESVILLE, WI — Glass half-empty: the Jets fell flat in a weekend set versus the Magicians, earning just one of a possible four points and surrendering the division’s second seed to Fairbanks in the process.
Glass half-full: the Jets battled hard for a point in a Sunday evening comeback, which was ultimately decided by the infamously-unpredictable shootout, and in just four short days will host the Magicians in a revenge series on home ice.
No matter how you view it, the Jets’ scoring depth was on display in Richfield with six different skaters notching goals for Janesville, all of whom are outside the Jets’ top three goal-scorers. Hot streaks were continued (Carter Hottmann, Brenden Olson) and cold streaks were snapped (Andrew Hicks, Erik Palmqvist), and the Jets play four of the next six on home ice.
Gaps at the top of the Midwest Division are tight right now. Minnesota’s six-point lead is the smallest division lead in the NAHL. The seven-point gap between 1st and 3rd is the smallest in the league, and the difference between 2nd and 3rd, right now a single point, will in April determine home ice advantage.
Exciting races are tightening up, and the Jets’ chase for their third division title in five seasons resumes again this Friday. First let’s look at the weekend in Richfield.
SATURDAY — L, 5-2
The Jets surrendered the first two goals in Saturday night’s series opener, and cut the lead to one, but allowed three in the third period, dropping the contest 5-2 to the Magicians.
The Magicians broke the seal late in the first period when Carter Breitenfeld found Matthew Stanton (18:08 1st) with a cross-crease pass.
Minnesota doubled their lead midway through the second period, capitalizing on their second power play opportunity of the evening with a goal from John Keranen (10:12 2nd), who redirected a point shot from Matthew Stanton. In the last minute of the period, Logan Ommen tossed a pass to Luke Wheeler (19:04 2nd), who made no mistake burying a shot for his first career NAHL goal.
The Jets’ momentum didn’t last long after intermission, though. Less than a minute into the third, Cameron Buhl (0:44 3rd) regained the two-goal lead with a tally on a left-wing rush.
Fairbanks jumped in front with a long-range power play goal from Noah Wilson (9:27 1st), and their lead would hold there for almost the rest of the first period. With four skaters a side, forward Brenden Olson (19:57 1st) pressured the Fairbanks point shot and created a breakaway for himself, which he finished with a beautiful forehand-backhand tuck for the tying goal in the dying seconds of the period. John Keranen (4:32 3rd) cleaned up a rebound later to put his Magicians in front 4-1, but Minnetonka native Andrew Hicks (5:00 3rd) ended a 12-game goal drought with his fourth of the season. Less than two minutes later, the Jets’ comeback hopes were dashed with an insurance marker from Carter Breitenfeldt (6:38 3rd).
Cole Brady made 28 saves in the Jets’ net, opposite Lake Superior State prospect Jack Robbel, whose 34/36 night earned him the game’s third star.
SUNDAY — L, 5-4 (SO)
A back-and-forth contest Sunday evening featured comeback efforts from both teams, but the Jets again fell short, this time collecting a point in the standings with a shootout loss.
Nearly 15 minutes of scoreless hockey opened Sunday’s game until Chris Konin (14:51 1st) deposited a rebound on Cole Brady. A few minutes later, John Keranen (18:26 1st) finished a back-door play to put the Magicians up 2-0, a lead they carried into the intermission.
Janesville got on the board in the second with a deflection goal from Brenden Olson (5:44 2nd), earning his 10th NAHL point in just his 9th game. Late in the period, Erik Palmqvist (18:17 2nd) broke free past the Minnesota defense and converted the breakaway chance into his fifth goal of the season, tying the game at 2-2 and snapping a 14-game goalless streak. Janesville couldn’t hang on, however, and allowed a go-ahead goal in the last minute of the middle frame when Jake Hale (19:28 2nd) tipped in a shot from Dawson Klein. Immediately after the goal, Klein skated towards Brady, seemingly making a comment that earned him a 10-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, effectively benching him until late in the 3rd period.
Down a goal heading into the third, the Jets rallied to steal a lead with goals from Carter Hottmann (6:15 3rd) and Nicholas Nardella (8:30 3rd). Hottmann scored his fourth goal in six games with a redirection from the slot, and Nardella’s post-and-in snipe earned him his sixth of the season. The 4-3 lead lasted less than five minutes of play. Valentino Passarelli (12:51 3rd) picked up a puck, moved left into the slot, and shot across the grain, beating Brady.
After a scoreless overtime, the Magicians prevailed in the shootout. Ethan Haider turned away Vincent Weis, Brenden Olson, and Jack Vincent, leaving Jake Seitz with an opportunity to win the game in the “bottom of the third.” Seitz’s goal clinched the sweep for Minnesota.
Haider finished with 27 saves on 31 shots in 65 minutes of action, and then a perfect 3/3 in the shootout. Brady was a little busier in the losing net, stopping 31 of 35.
Around the Division
Springfield Jr. Blues 1 @ Fairbanks Ice Dogs 8
Chippewa Steel 6 @ Kenai River Brown Bears 2
Springfield Jr. Blues 4 @ Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3
Chippewa Steel 4 @ Kenai River Brown Bears 0
|2||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||36||12-2-3-2||43|
|4||Springfield Jr. Blues||33||15-15-2-1||33|
|5||Kenai River Brown Bears||35||12-19-2-2||28|
A short turnaround sees the same two teams in action this weekend in Janesville, with the Jets now looking up at the Magicians from third place after the Fairbanks Ice Dogs split a home series versus Springfield.
Exciting promotions give fans plenty of action to look forward to. Friday night the Jets will offer the first 200 fans through the door an opportunity to play Hockey Bingo, sponsored by Baker Tilly, with chances to win an Amazon Echo Show or $50 Culver’s gift cards. Then on Saturday night, the Jets host their third annual Guns ‘N Hoses Night, featuring a 4:30pm charity game pitting area police offers against area firefighters to raise money for Vets Roll.
Jets play-by-play broadcaster Mike Hammett calls the action from the Janesville Ice Arena on HockeyTV.com.
Magicians @ Jets | Fri Jan 18 | 7:00pm CST
Magicians @ Jets | Sat Jan 19 | 7:00pm CST