Midwest Division Finals Preview: Janesville Jets (1) vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs (2)

Apr 24, 2017

MW Finals 1

Along the Jets’ Road to the Robertson Cup, janesvillejets.com provides a look in at the start of each series of a hopeful run.

What fans can expect is a general introduction to the two teams, coupled with vital statistics and keys to the series. In our player-specific sections, we will highlight Players to Watch that do not serve as the usual suspects – the best of the supporting cast or perhaps the darkhorse playoff warrior.

After sweeping their in-state rivals, the Coulee Region Chill, in the Midwest Division Semi-Finals, the Jets will have to get past last year’s Robertson Cup champions, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, to punch their ticket to Duluth.

Great goaltending from Jake Barczewski and late-game heroics from Frank Sullivan (17:05 3rd, Game 1), Carter Ekberg (9:54 2OT, Game 2), and Cole Paskus (5:07 OT, Game 3) helped Janesville dispose of the Coulee Region Chill to pick up their third playoff series win in franchise history.

All three games were decided by just one goal, and two couldn’t be decided in regulation. Game 2 was the longest game in Jets history, clocking in just shy of 90 minutes. Though Coulee Region only skated 4% of the series with a lead, this was a remarkably close sweep. Those looking for series MVP honors might scan the Jets’ second line of Kip Hoffmann (2-1—3), Peter Bates (1-1—2), and Cullen Munson (0-4—4). The veteran forwards, all three with three years’ NAHL experience, played excellent, 200-foot hockey and consistently generated scoring chances for each other. Jake Barczewski (3-0, .940 save percentage) was also outstanding in the face of the NAHL’s third-best offense.

As the calendar pages turn, and the Great White North becomes less white, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs have maintained the greatness. The perennial powerhouse franchise has captured two of the last three Robertson Cups, and three since 2011. Though Janesville managed a four-game sweep of the Ice Dogs, the team that just eliminated the Magicians is unrecognizable from the one in early December, looking up at a then 4th-place Springfield Jr. Blues team, who stood nine points ahead for the final playoff spot. The Dogs ripped off nine wins to close the regular season, and with their sweep of Minnesota now boast a 12-game win streak.

Perhaps most impressive of their series win, Fairbanks increased their margin of victory with each game. After allowing the series’ first goal, they stormed back with two second period goals and sealed Game 1.  In Game 2, they again allowed the first strike, but answered with three tallies and an empty-netter for a 4-1 win. Then, at the daunting Big Dipper, they did it again. Minnesota’s Jarrett Lee opened the scoring, but four first period goals began a 7-2 whomping to cap the sweep. To get to Duluth, the Jets will have to beat the NAHL’s hottest team.

Midwest Division Final Schedule
Friday & Saturday games 7:00pm local time, SUNDAY GAME 3 5:00pm CST

Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 (if nec.) Game 5 (if nec.)
If Janesville wins G1 & G2 FRI 4/28 in JVL SAT 4/29 in JVL FRI 5/5 in FBX SAT 5/6 in FBX SUN 5/7 in FBX
If G1 & G2 split FRI 4/28 in JVL SAT 4/29 in JVL SUN 4/30 in JVL FRI 5/5 in FBX SAT 5/6 in FBX
If Fairbanks wins G1 & G2 FRI 4/28 in JVL SAT 4/29 in JVL SUN 4/30 in JVL FRI 5/5 in FBX SAT 5/6 in FBX

Season Series

Fri 11/4 | Ice Dogs 2 @ Jets 3
Sat 11/5 | Ice Dogs 2 @ Jets 5
Fri 11/18 | Jets 5 @ Ice Dogs 2
Sat 11/19 |Jets 5 @ Ice Dogs 2

Janesville Jets vs. Fairbanks Ice Dogs
42-13-1-4 (89 points) Regular Season Record 33-24-2-1 (69 points)
Third NAHL Standing Tenth
First Division Standing Second
24-4-0-2 Home Record 20-9-0-1
18-9-1-2 Road Record 13-15-2-0
224 (2nd) Goals For 185 (14th)
153 (5th) Goals Against 165 (8th)
24.3% (1st) Power Play 20.5% (6th)
82.7% (9th) Penalty Kill 85.0% (5th)
Eliminated in MW Semi-Finals 2015-16 Playoffs Won Robertson Cup
3-0 win over Coulee Region Last Round  3-0 win over Minnesota
Peter Bates (24-32—56) Leading Scorer Hampus Eriksson (17-38—55)
Michael Maloney (25-30—55) Second Leading Scorer Cayden Cahill (19-24—43)
Cullen Munson (20-35—55) Third Leading Scorer Hunter Wendt (20-18—38)
Michael Maloney (25) Top Goal Scorer Hunter Wendt (20)
Adam Roeder (7-25—32) Top Scoring Defenseman Marc Sullivan (5-22—27); Aaron McPheters (5-22—27)
Jake Barczewski (27-6-0-0, 1.94, .929, 2 SO) Top Goaltender Erik Gordon (24-3-0-0, 1.89, .928, 4 SO)

Key to the Series – Janesville Jets 

Win the special teams battle: Again. That’s how important this is. The Jets swept the Chill, their special teams kryptonite, despite running a 1-13 (7.7%) power play and a 4-9 (55.6%) penalty kill. While this does speak to the Jets’ 5v5 dominance in the series, a -4 special teams goal differential versus Fairbanks may not fare so well. The Ice Dogs were 4-8 (50%) on the man advantage against Minnesota, and a perfect 8-8 on the kill, with two shorties to boot.

Key to the Series – Fairbanks Ice Dogs

Get leads: Call it luck, call it determination, but don’t call it consistently repeatable. The Ice Dogs surrendered the first goal in each of their three wins over Minnesota. Playing from behind is exhausting, and though Janesville coughed up leads against Coulee, but the Ice Dogs can’t rely on that.

Forward to Watch – Janesville Jets

LW Cole Paskus (reg: 22-26—48; p/o: 1-2—3): Game 3’s overtime hero is unquestionably one of the most impactful players in the Midwest Division. His strength, positioning, and skills have him over the boards for big minutes on all situations. Paskus registered assists in both games in Fairbanks this season (after missing the home matchups to injury), and led his teammates in shots with 15 in the first round of the playoffs.

Forward to Watch – Fairbanks Ice Dogs

F Hampus Eriksson (reg: 17-38—55; p/o: 2-5—7): The Swedish set-up man was stymied in Game 1, but exploded for seven points in Games 2 and 3. At 6’4″ and 205 lbs, Eriksson is a force and will not be contained easily.

Defenseman to Watch – Janesville Jets

D Blake Wareham (reg: 2-15—17; p/o: 2-1—3): The Canisius commit matched his season goal total less than 25 minutes into Game 1. A model of consistency, Wareham has logged heavy minutes all season with just six minor penalties across 61 total games.

Defenseman to Watch – Fairbanks Ice Dogs

D Benton Maass (reg: 7-9—16; p/o: 2-2—4): The UNH recruit and NHL Central Scouting lister picked up the GWG in Game 2 and the Ice Dogs’ first of Game 3. Maass is a huge piece of the Ice Dogs’ power play. Six of his seven goals in the regular season came on the man advantage.

Goaltender to Watch – Janesville Jets

G Jake Barczewski (reg: 35 GP, 27-6-0-0, 1.94 GAA, .929 SV%, 2 SO; p/o 3 GP, 3-0-0-0, 1.95 GAA, .940 SV%): The kid did it again. Championship teams are made of the kind of goaltending Barczewski put on display against the Chill. In his first two NAHL playoff games, he battled for 150 minutes of action and turned away 73 of 77 shots. He saw plenty of rubber against a high-scoring team, and turned in save after save.

Goaltender to Watch – Fairbanks Ice Dogs

G Erik Gordon (reg: 32GP, 24-3-0-0, 1.89 GAA, .928 SV%, 4 SO; p/o 3 GP, 3-0-0-0, 1.34 GAA, .950 SV%): Listed at just 5’10” and 160 lbs, Gordon athletically fills his 4’x6′. Gordon, who turned a .909 save percentage in Lone Star into a .944 when he arrived in Fairbanks, allowed early goals in all three playoff games, but rebounded well for wins every time.

All games this weekend will be broadcast live on www.HockeyTV.com with Mike Hammett’s call. Tickets are still available for this weekend and can be purchased online here.