JANESVILLE, WI — A junior hockey rookie season is remarkably different in its second half than its first, after most of the bumps are smoothed and the pace of the game feels a little easier. Big weekends from rookies Brenden Olson, Tommy Middleton, and Carter Hottmann, who was named the Bauer Midwest Star of the Week, helped the Jets to a pair of high-offense games capped with an impressive comeback effort on Saturday night to stave off a Fairbanks sweep.
FRIDAY — L, 5-3
A 3-0 special teams deficit and a bad third period stretch sank the Jets on Friday night, losing 5-3 to the visiting Ice Dogs.
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.
Janesville stole a lead in the second period when Tommy Middleton (4:15 2nd) roofed a backhand shortside, finishing a play started in the neutral zone by Carter Hottmann.
The Ice Dogs ripped open the third period, though, with four total goals including three unanswered in a span of less than four minutes. Matt Koethe (5:09 3rd) and Noah Wilson (6:50 3rd) scored on back-to-back power plays for Fairbanks to tie and regain the lead, and soon after it was leading scorer Jonathan Sorenson (8:55 3rd) who padded the lead to 4-2. Jets leading scorer Jack Vincent (9:25 3rd) would collect his 10th of the season just 30 seconds after Sorenson to bring Janesville within one, but another quick response from Ty Proffitt (10:06 3rd) clinched this one for Fairbanks.
Jets newcomer Sam Metcalf wasn’t as fortunate in his second start with the club, stopping 20 of 25 shots in the losing effort. Madison native Nate Reid shone for Fairbanks in a much busier 38-shot night, turning away 35 for the win.
SATURDAY — W, 4-3 (OT)
Goals from Brenden MacLaren and Carter Hottmann helped the Jets erase a two-goal deficit Saturday, and the captain came through in overtime as the Jets avoided a sweep and picked up a little momentum heading into a full six days off.
The first goal again belonged to Fairbanks, this time coming in the first three minutes of the contest. Forward Jax Murray (2:57 3rd) tipped home a point shot from Dylan Abbott for the 1-0 lead. Like Friday, the Jets tied it at ones late in the first with a goal from a rookie. Michigan forward Tommy Middleton (16:37 1st) avoided a hit in the neutral zone, created a three-on-one rush, and sniped his fifth of the season.
Early in the second period, the Ice Dogs again jumped ahead on a quick goal from Grant Ledford (1:45 2nd), and doubled the margin to 3-1 seven minutes later when Jack Johnston (8:13 2nd) buried an uncontested doorstep rebound. The Jets cut into the lead later with a goal on the rush. Captain Brenden MacLaren (11:37 2nd) took a pass in the low slot from Jordon Halverson and put one past Mattias Sholl.
Janesville dramatically tied the game late with another goal from the suddenly-hot rookie Carter Hottmann (16:17 3rd). Hottmann picked off an errant pass from behind the Fairbanks goal line, walked in, and roofed the puck to finish the beautiful goal.
A tripping minor to Andrew Garby with 53 seconds left in regulation meant Janesville opened the overtime period with a 4-on-3 advantage, eager to convert their first and biggest of 10 power plays of the weekend. The Jets opened up the cycle and Nick Nardella found Brenden MacLaren (0:30 OT) for a game-winning one-timer.
Cole Brady picked up his first win of 2019 and 15th of the season in the extra-time decision, stopping 34 of 37 shots. Fairbanks goaltender Mattias Sholl was 29/33 in the loss.
Around the Division
Minnesota Magicians 2 @ Springfield Jr. Blues 3
Minnesota Magicians 1 @ Springfield Jr. Blues 2 (OT)
|3||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||34||18-11-3-2||41|
|4||Springfield Jr. Blues||31||14-14-2-1||31|
|5||Kenai River Brown Bears||33||12-17-2-2||28|
The Jets finish their nine-game holiday home stand 6-3, which they began at seven points shy of first-place Minnesota. Now that gap is down to four points, with the first of four straight games between these two teams glowing red on Saturday’s calendar.
The Magicians, who have led the Midwest Division for almost the entire season, have struggled a bit lately. Though they earned a point in Saturday’s overtime loss in Springfield, they were swept for the second time in three series. The first of those two, December 14th and 15th in Janesville, is motivation enough for AJ Bucchino’s group to rally this weekend.
A Saturday/Sunday set this weekend means the boys will miss NFL playoff action, but the Jets will board the bus Saturday ferocious and hungry to earn head coach Corey Leivermann his first NAHL road victory, and no sweeter place for that than in his home state of Minnesota.
Both games will be broadcast live on HockeyTV.com.
Jets @ Magicians | Sat Jan 12 | 7:00pm CST
Jets @ Magicians | Sun Jan 13 | 6:00pm CST