By Mason Lyttle
Friday, November 13: Janesville Jets 4, Fairbanks Ice Dogs 3
Shots: Jets 25, Ice Dogs 28
PP: Jets 1-5, Ice Dogs 0-4
The Janesville Jets (9-6-2) rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period to defeat the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (16-3-1), who maintain the NAHL’s best record, at the Big Dipper Ice Arena in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Reggie Lutz (9:05 1st) struck first for the Ice Dogs, but was answered by Jets all-time leading scorer Adam Winborg (9:39 1st) a short 35 seconds later. With his teammate Aaron McPheters serving a tripping penalty, star Fairbanks forward Logan Coomes (11:35 1st) tallied a shorthanded goal to regain the Ice Dogs’ lead and keep his name in the league scoring race.
The long shift opened the ice for each team in the second period, with 21 of the game’s 53 shots coming in the middle frame. Fairbanks held to their one-goal lead until Ryan Kero (19:03 2nd) found the back of the net with his first of the season. Jets goaltender Blake Weyrick (3-3-0) finished the second period but remained on the bench for the third, ending his night with 17 saves on 20 shots.
Canadian goaltender Jack LaFontaine (6-3-1) began the period in the visiting crease, relieving Weyrick. The Ice Dogs held their two-goal lead for nearly twelve minutes of the third period, when second-year Jet Zach Solow (11:54 3rd) cut the deficit in half. Solow notched an assist on veteran forward Taylor Fernandez’s (16:40 3rd) game-tying goal less than five minutes later. Tensions rose in the newly-tied game. Referee Stan Szczurek assessed a slashing major and a game misconduct to Fairbanks forward Clay Cross, sending the Jets to what would become the clinching power play. Defenseman Andrew Roye (18:19 3rd) scored the game-winning goal, his first as a Janesville Jet.
LaFontaine registered the win, stopping all eight shots directed his way in the pivotal third period, while former Jet Gavin Nieto (9-2-1) stopped 21 of 25 pucks in a losing effort.
Saturday, November 14: Janesville Jets 2, Fairbanks Ice Dogs 1
Shots: Jets 29, Ice Dogs 29
PP: Jets 1-2, Ice Dogs 1-4
The Janesville Jets (10-6-2) again came from behind to steal a regulation win from the Fairbanks Ice Dogs (16-4-1) in what is becoming a heated rivalry between two of the league’s marquee franchises at the Big Dipper Ice Arena.
Alaska native Cayden Cahill (9:53 1st) capitalized on Nils Rygaard’s high sticking penalty, redirecting a point shot to open the scoring for his Ice Dogs. Janesville would later successfully kill a penalty without Rygaard, the unit’s top performer, roughly two minutes later.
Taylor Fernandez (6:51 2nd) added his own tally on the man-advantage, tying the game early in the second period. Just a couple of shifts later, Fernandez (9:11 2nd), the eventual Easton Midwest Division Star of the Week, finished a pretty passing play for his third goal of the series.
Janesville protected the one-goal lead in a chippy, physical final measure featuring 28 penalty minutes between the two teams. The Jets’ John Peterson and the Ice Dogs’ Ryan Kero and Adam Anderson all collected unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Anderson’s was a 10-minute misconduct, ending his weekend slightly early. The Jets outshot their opponents, 11-6, in the game’s final period.
Gavin Nieto (9-3-1) registered the loss and made 27 saves on 29 shots. Jack LaFontaine (7-3-1) was one goal from perfection, stopping 26 of 27 pucks and earning his first sweep in the NAHL.
Friday, November 20, 2015 @ Kenai River Brown Bears – 10:30 p.m. CST
Saturday, November 21, 2015 @ Kenai River Brown Bears – 10:30 p.m. CST
The Janesville Jets finish their first Alaska road trip by heading south to Soldotna, where they will be careful not to underestimate the Kenai River Brown Bears, who will be looking to end an 18-game losing streak. Kenai River’s last win, a 4-3 overtime decision over Janesville, came in a spoilers’ effort at the Jets’ home opener. Janesville managed the series split with a 2-0 win the following night. Under head coach Joe Dibble, the Jets are 3-0-4 versus the Brown Bears, with four of their seven games being decided in the shootout.
The Kenai River Brown Bears will be hungry following a home sweep at the hands of the Coulee Region Chill, losing 5-2 on Friday night and 6-2 on Saturday. Brown Bears forwards Jeffrey Fasegha and Evan Butcher each came away with two points from the weekend. Neither Kenai River goaltender played poorly, with Nicholas Nast stopping 30/35 on Friday and Brian Baker following that effort with a 45/50 performance on Saturday.
Midwest Division Recap:
Sweeps were all the rage in the Midwest Division last weekend. While the Janesville Jets swept the first-place Fairbanks Ice Dogs, Fairbanks lost no ground in the division. The second-place Minnesota Wilderness stumbled in a road sweep at the hands of the third-place Springfield Jr. Blues, losing 5-2 on Friday night and 7-4 on Saturday. Janesville’s sweep moves them to just six points behind Springfield with one game in hand on their rivals to the south. Janesville’s in-state rivals, the Coulee Region Chill, maintained their eight-point gap behind Janesville with their own sweep in the Last Frontier over the basement-dwelling Kenai River Brown Bears.
Midwest Division Standings:
Fairbanks Ice Dogs….……………..16-4-1, 33 points
MN Wilderness….……..…….……..14-7-1, 29 points
Springfield Jr. Blues…..…….………13-4-2, 28 points
Janesville Jets………..…………….10-6-2, 22 points
Coulee Region Chill…………………7-10-0, 14 points
Kenai River Brown Bears…………1-20-0, 2 points
The Jets continued their odd placement in the records of each of their Alaska rivals. Janesville remains Kenai River’s lone win of the 2015-16 season, and by sweeping Fairbanks, the Jets now represent four of the Ice Dog’s five losses this year. With Fairbanks and Kenai River sitting first and last (respectively) in the NAHL, this piece of Jets trivia is all the more interesting.
The Jets scored a power play goal in each game of the weekend series for the first time since the final series of the 2014-15 season, when Brandon Schultz’s extra man marker sealed Janesville’s record-breaking 49th win and 100th point of the historic campaign. The Jets’ power play unit currently sits 17th in the league at 13.56%.
Jack LaFontaine’s relief effort on Friday night marked his first appearance in an NAHL game which he had not started, a feat Matt Jurusik did not register until February of last season, when he also relieved Blake Weyrick on the road, that time in a 5-3 comeback victory over the Coulee Region Chill.
By holding Fairbanks to just four goals in two games, the Jets maintain their sub-2.00 goals against average (GAA) on the season. Through 18 contests this season, Janesville has allowed just 35 goals (1.94 GAA), a defensive effort second to only the Lone Star Brahmas’ 26 goals allowed in 15 games (1.73 GAA) for best in the NAHL. The Jets’ current mark of 1.94 is nearly as good as last year’s pace, when their 1.9 GAA translated to 114 goals allowed on the season, a record low for the league.