JANESVILLE – Another weekend, another sweep, another four points in the standings for the Janesville Jets.
It could be the opening sentence of any Monday morning story since the first week of January. The Jets have now put together a franchise record 12 straight wins, and have lost one contest since Black Friday. That’s 22 of 23 possible wins since there was leftover turkey in your fridge.
Janesville collected a pair of 1-0 wins this weekend in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, as Matt Jurusik posted back-to-back shutouts over the Keystone Ice Miners. The wins were numbers 37 and 38 on the season for the red-hot Jets, setting a franchise record in the “W” column.
The 2011-2012 season saw the Jets finish 37-18-5, good for second place in the MidWest Division. Those Jets would go on to lose a heartbreaking best-of-five Division Semi-Finals series to the Springfield Jr. Blues, three games to two. Behind the Springfield bench in that series was Joe Dibble.
“All three years I was in Springfield, Janesville was a tough competitor,” said Dibble, now in his third campaign with the Jets. “It was a tough team to play against, regular season or playoffs. We were pretty excited to take that series from the Jets.”
This year’s Jets hold a 26-point lead in the North Division, and will likely clinch the division title before their next home game on March 6th. They also hold a seven-point lead over the Topeka RoadRunners in the chase for the top seed in the Robertson Cup Championship Tournament. How does a team performing this well stay focused sweep after sweep?
“Just try not to think about it too much,” said winger Dan Kucerovy, who has played 88 games over three seasons in a Jets uniform. “On Monday it’s back to work.”
“For us, once a game is over, we put it behind us,” Dibble said. “We don’t talk about it, we don’t dwell on it, we just kind of move on to the next day.
It’s been our mentality all season long,” he added. “There’s nothing you can do about yesterday and tomorrow is too far away. We just worry about the day we’re in.”
If focusing on the present has gotten the Jets this far, there’s no limit to what they can achieve. Setting the franchise record for wins is, by itself, a significant accomplishment. Doing so in mid-February, with the potential to add 12 more to their total, borders on the sublime.
This is, by record, the best Jets team Janesville has iced in their six years of existence. But how does it stack up in the careers of Kucerovy and Dibble?
“This is by far the best hockey team I’ve played on in my career,” Kucerovy said.
“Yes,” added Dibble. “I would say this is the best I’ve coached. We have a group of guys that have been able to put their individual focus aside. All they care about is each other. They go to work and battle for each other. All around, it’s the most fun team I’ve been a part of, from the players to the staff, the owners, the fans…it’s been a pretty special season so far.”
There’s plenty of hockey still to play.