BLAINE, MN — Three rookies scored their first career NAHL goals and goaltender Grant Riley followed up Cristian Wong-Ramos’ shutout yesterday with one of his own as the Jets cruised past the Austin Bruins, 4-0, Thursday night.
Riley, like Wong-Ramos yesterday, gave all credit to the team in front of him.
“It was amazing,” the rookie said. “They’ve been playing so well. There weren’t any odd man rushes at all. They bailed me out a lot and I give a lot of credit to them.”
Riley, who tendered with the Jets in February, only needed 16 saves for the blank sheet, much to head coach Corey Leivermann’s delight.
“I think we played very defensively sound both nights,” Leivermann said. “We didn’t give up a lot of ‘grade As’ like we did versus Chippewa. We played the right way, and when you have your goalies make those one or two, maybe three key saves you need, that’s huge. They stood tall when it mattered most.”
In front of Riley, rookies Jack Rhode, Max Itagaki, and Nick Brown scored their first career NAHL goals.
“I think a lot of these guys are buying in now,” said Leivermann. “They’ve figured out just how hard it is to play at this level and how hard it is to compete for a full three periods. I think tonight we let off the gas pedal for about ten minutes there, but for the majority of the game, our effort and our compete were great. Playing the right way rewards you and it’s great to see young guys get rewarded.”
An entertaining opening frame did not disappoint a packed crowd of fans and scouts. Undisciplined sticks were the story of the first four minutes, as the Jets quickly went to a two-man advantage thanks to a slashing minor on Bruins forward Peter Jacobs and a high sticking minor to Bruins defenseman Devon Fields. After a couple of shots on the 5-on-3, another high sticking call was assessed to Jets forward Leo Bacallo, ending the early threat. The Bruins controlled chances throughout the middle and end of the first period, keeping Grant Riley on his toes. The 2002-born goaltender’s best save of the win came on a two-on-one opportunity, moving him right to left where he came up big with the pad. With under two minutes to play, Northern Michigan recruit Parker Lindauer (18:06 1st) followed his shot on goaltender Tyler Shea, jamming home the rebound for a 1-0 Jets lead.
It was the second period that opened the floodgates for first career junior hockey goals. First, a deflected shot attempt bounced its way to Eagle River native Jack Rhode (6:07 2nd), tonight the Jets’ 13th forward, and Rhode beat Shea with a quick wrister. Later, forwards Leo Bacallo and Jackson Sabo began a beautiful tic-tac-toe play that finished with RPI commit Max Itagaki (10:49 2nd) tapping the puck into an empty net.
Yet another first career NAHL goal came on the power play early in the final frame, when North Dakotan forward Nick Brown (1:49 3rd) stepped into a wrister from the left slot and beat Shea high. Bruins head coach Steve Howard then switched in Zach Hansen, who yesterday blanked the Jamestown Rebels in a 20-save, 1-0 win.
Unlike East Division Showcase foes Northeast and Maryland, the Austin Bruins are no stranger to the Jets. The teams played a four-game series in three of the last five seasons, and twice before met at the Showcase. After tonight’s win, Janesville leads the all-time series 11-4.