The North American Hockey League kicks off the 2021 Robertson Cup playoffs this weekend, and the Jets have two games on tap with the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Janesville went 31-13-4-0 in what was a rollercoaster regular season. The Jets earned 66 points and came away with their third divisional title in team history, and earned the No. 1 seed for playoffs. The Brown Bears finished the regular season at 22-24-1-1 to earn the No. 4 seed.
Kenai begins playoffs after a three-game losing streak, while Janesville went 1-2-0-0 in its final weekend of the regular season against the Minnesota Magicians and Chippewa Steel. Both are looking to get off to a good start in the Robertson Cup standings, and the match-up should be plenty interesting.
Games one and two of the first round will be the 11th and 12th meetings between the two teams this year. The record so far is an even 5-5, and many of the games have been high-scoring affairs. Currently, the Brown Bears hold the edge in goals with 42 to the Jets’ 37.
One area that the Jets have been nearly untouchable in thus far is the penalty kill. Janesville currently has an 88.4 percent success rate when down a man, which is only bested by the NAHL regular season champions, the Aberdeen Wings. The Brown Bears posted a 61.2 PK rating, which comes in last in the league.
Kenai does excel on the man advantage with a power play percentage of 26.5, second-best in the league. Janesville is not far behind at 21.9 percent, but with such an efficient penalty kill, the two teams still remain very closely-matched overall, with the Jets taking a slight advantage in special teams.
The Jets have two top-20 scorers in the league in Charlie Schoen and Cade Destefani, who have both scored 45 points. Janesville also has the 13th-best goaltender, Riley Sims, who finished the regular season with a .919 save percentage. Kenai’s Luke Pavicich finished with the same percentage, but allowed 2.86 goals to Sim’s 2.70.
Games one and two of the best-of-five series will be played at Janesville Ice Arena on Friday, May 21 and Saturday, May 22, both at 7:05 p.m. CDT. Seating has been expanded for the playoffs, and there are still limited tickets available in pods of six-plus for both nights via the Jets website. Friday’s game will be a white-out at the rink, and fans coming to watch in person are encouraged to fill the stands with white. A pre-game party at Charlie’s Place (2020 E. Racine St., Janesville) is slated for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, and fans can also catch the game live on HockeyTV from there. More information is available on the Facebook event page.
Games three and four will be hosted by the Brown Bears in Blaine, Minn. at the National Sports Center Super Rink on May 28 and 29. Ticket information has yet to be released, but any details will be shared via the Jets social media channels. If necessary, game five will return to Janesville on May 31 to close out the series.