JANESVILLE, WI — The Jets held their first home series of the 2022-23 season last weekend, and while they couldn’t come away with a series victory, still gave the Janesville faithful a thrilling three days of hockey. It was Joe Dibble’s return to the bench for the first time in five years, and his team had great momentum coming in to the weekend thanks to a 4-0 display at the NAHL Showcase last week.
THURSDAY: L, 2-1 (OT)
After a scoreless first period that saw the Jets come out with a noticeable jump and nine shots on net, it was the opposition that got on the scoresheet first in the middle period. Kenai River made big adjustments into the second that helped them bounce in front both on the scoreboard and in the shots department (13-12). Down a goal and heading into the third, the Jets maintained strong pressure against the Brown Bears, but Nils Wallstrom continued his strong night in net. Janesville eventually broke through just past the halfway point of the third. Jimmy Doyle (3) entered the zone with numbers and fired a snapshot to the short side to tie the game at one.
“I went for a poke check along the wall, got in on a 2-on-1, looked pass first, their goalie slid over and I saw an opening and threw it in,” said the goal-scorer Jimmy Doyle. “The boys are gelling really well together and that start at the Showcase demonstrates that no doubt. We have a real good group and I’m excited for the season.” Doyle is one of nine returning Jets from the 2021-22 roster.
After tying the game at one, Janesville saw a number of grade A chances to jump in front, but Wallstrom added more saves to his count to extend the contest to overtime. The Jets started with possession and attempted a stretch pass through the middle of the ice, but had it cancelled out by Kenai. The Brown Bears then turned back the other way and spent little time setting up shop, and scored the game-winner on a slot pass from behind the net.
Goaltender Selby Warren saw much more action than he did at the Showcase; tasked with stopping 35 shots, the Canadien netminder made 33 saves in a competitive match. “I felt pretty strong about my game tonight,” said Warren. “The team helped me settle well in the first with some strong pressure at the other end. Second period they pushed back, I saw some more rubber there but the boys did a great job keeping them out. You can’t win ’em all; it was a tough loss, we still got a point out of it, and we’ll be back Friday.
The Jets’ stamina was compromised late in the second and into the third after having to kill a five-minute Kenai power play. They survived the barrage of chances from the opposition, and stayed within a goal after the successful special teams play. “Special teams can really change the tide of play,” said Jets assistant coach Ryan Black. “With our guys, it’s all about selling out and blocking shots, getting those 200-foot clears; if we do that, have a good up ice, teams can’t enter the zone. It was a huge momentum changer for us and the guys did great.”
Kenai River goaltender Nils Wallstrom finished the night with flying colors, stopping 32 of 33 shots in the win.
FRIDAY: W, 5-1
Unlike Thursday night, the Jets took mere seconds to get on the scoreboard on Friday. Only 20 seconds after puck drop, Joseph Kramer fired a snapshot from the slot past Kenai goaltender Bryant Marks to set the tone early. Just before the halfway point, Quinnipiac commit Chris Pelosi found the back of the net to make it a 2-0 Jets lead. It was Pelosi’s third goal of the year after he posted an impressive two-goal outing against the North Iowa Bulls at the NAHL Showcase.
The Brown Bears showed signs of life in the second period and eventually scored their one and only goal of the night via Carson Triggs. Ten minutes later, Noah Gibbs snatched the goal right back while on the power play that made it 3-1. The third period went scoreless up until the Brown Bears elected to pull Marks and empty the net, only for Geno McEnery to deposit his first goal of the year into the yawning cage. Kyle Kudrna added his third score of the year to make it a five spot for the Jets and send the Janesville faithful home happy with Culver’s cards for the first time this year.
The Jets sent a whopping 43 shots in on the Kenai River defense, a suffocating number that very clearly worked in favor of the home squad. Peter Sterling got the start in Friday’s game and continued to build on his strong play from the Showcase; the Virginia native allowed only one goal on 31 shots to move to 3-0 on the year.
SATURDAY: L, 4-3 (OT)
Chris Pelosi opened the scoring on Saturday with his fourth goal of the year in the second period, only for the Brown Bears to score three unanswered goals, two in the middle frame and the third on the power play halfway through period three. Down 3-1 with less than three minutes left in regulation, the Jets pulled the goalie for an extra attacker, and things got crazy.
Noah Gibbs got a deflection on Ryan Williams‘ shot from the point that weaved its way through traffic and into the back of the net to get Janesville within one. Charlie Lieberman also added a helper on the goal. But the Jets weren’t done there. Forty-three seconds after making it a one-goal game and their net still empty, the Jets sent the Hangar into a frenzy.
Chris Pelosi stayed hot and played, for the time being, the hero for the Jets as his second goal of the night and fifth of the season knotted the game up at three. An incredible comeback for the Jets, who had been harassing Kenai netminder Nils Wallstrom with shots all night to no avail. Janesville nearly took the lead off a Will Troutwine shot from the low slot, but the bouncing rubber glanced off Wallstrom’s arm and just beyond the far post and into the corner.
For the second time in three nights, we saw overtime. Janesville again started the extra frame with possession, but couldn’t capitalize. And, unfortunately again, the Brown Bears started back the other way and scored the game-winner. A gut-wrenching loss, but a good one, if there is such thing, given the Jets trailed by two with two and a half minutes to play. The team still managed a point in their two losses, and still don’t have a regulation loss yet to their name. Peter Sterling got the consecutive start and suffered his first loss of the year.
Janesville currently sits in a tie with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs with 12 points at the top of the Midwest Division.
After enjoying time at home to start the season, Janesville will travel to Chippewa this upcoming weekend for a two-game road series against the Chippewa Steel. The Steel reside in a tie for second with eight points after their opening weekend from the Chippewa Ice Arena, a series that saw them lose two of three against the Anchorage Wolverines.