The Janesville Jets take on their second Alaskan opponent in as many weeks as they are set to host the Kenai River Brown Bears this weekend, Jan. 8-9.
It’s the first meeting between the two teams so far this season, and in nearly a year. In their last series, the Jets swept the Brown Bears in a pair of close victories: 4-3 and 5-4 on Feb. 6-7, 2020.
The renewed rivalry will be quite the battle: both looking for an advantage in the Midwest Division. The Jets are currently 4-3-2-0 through nine games played with 10 points to lead the division. The Brown Bears are not far behind, however, with a record of 3-2-0-0 for six points and third place. The Brown Bears arrive in Janesville coming off of a 5-2 loss to the Chippewa Steel on Jan. 2.
The series is part of a stretch of three straight weekends of home games for Janesville, as Midwest Division play is back in full swing and all teams are in action. The Jets will be looking for some redemption on home ice after being swept by Fairbanks in a three-game slate last week.
In addition to their lead in points, the Jets also still hold on to the division’s top power play and penalty kill. Janesville forward Cade Destefani is the division’s top scorer, 14th in the league, with eight goals and eight assists through nine games, and goaltender Owen Millward ranks second-best in the division, 15th in the league with a .902 save percentage.
Janesville will get a boost by having limited fans back in the building, with season ticket holders allowed to attend in pod seating. General admission tickets are not yet available, but fans who wish to catch the action from home can do so via streaming at HockeyTV, with the NAHL Game Center, or by following the Jets on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Both games are at 7 p.m. CST.
Last Time Out
The Jets had a rough re-entry to division play last weekend and were swept by Fairbanks in three games on home ice. The Jets were still able to pick up one point in the series with an overtime loss in the 5-4 finale on Jan. 2 to hold their lead in the standings. Janesville did manage to go 7-for-8 on the penalty kill through three games as a bright spot on the weekend. Captain Carter Hottmann played in his 107th career game with Janesville on Jan. 2, which placed him in the top 20 in program history for games played. He also scored the opening goal of the game, and in the evening before.
Second-year Janesville forward Max Itagaki had a solid weekend, despite the final results. Itagaki tallied four points in the three games, one goal and three assists, and had at least one point in each game. His efforts earned him Janesville’s Diamond Center Diamond Player of the Week award and an honorable mention for the NAHL’s Midwest Division Star of the Week honor. Itagaki is currently second on the list of Janesville’s top scorers of the season, with seven points in eight games.
The Jets conclude a three-week stint of home games Jan. 15-16 with a cross-division match-up against the Minnesota Wilderness. The Wilderness have only played three games this season, the last a 3-2 shootout loss at Austin on Nov. 20. Janesville then has a weekend off before another three-game set and rematch with Kenai Jan. 29-31.