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.
The Jets ousted the defending Robertson Cup champions, the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, in four games to punch their ticket to the Final Four in Duluth. To advance to Sunday’s championship game, Janesville needs to knock out the Lone Star Brahmas in a best-of-three series beginning Thursday.
Two full minutes had not yet been played in the Midwest Division Finals before Joey Abate converted a breakaway to give the Jets the first lead of the series. It was clear from the start that the Jets would present a very different challenge to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, then winners of 12 straight, including a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Magicians.
Standing in the path of the seemingly unstoppable force, the Jets played the immovable object role, and won big. They outscored the Ice Dogs 15-6 in the four-game series win, and outshot the defending champions 121-83. Their only hiccup: a 3-1 defeat in Game 3, the first after the grueling travel to Alaska. Their victories: 4-1, 5-0, and 5-2.
Third-year veteran Kip Hoffmann led the way with eight points in the series, including a hat trick in Game 2. Hoffmann leads all NAHL skaters in postseason goals with seven, and in points-per-game at an astounding 1.57 clip. Jake Barczewski was again great, also shining in Game 2 with a shutout and registering a .928 save percentage in the series. Captain Adam Roeder notched five assists, leading the defensemen in series scoring.
Two years ago, Janesville ripped up record books, setting new league highs in wins (49) and points (100). That team ran through the North Division Playoffs before being shocked by the Minnesota Wilderness at home in a pair of 2-1 losses. With Saturday night’s win, these Jets have now matched the franchise’s greatest postseason run.
The Jets will arrive in Duluth late Monday, giving themselves a well-earned couple of rest days before they play the most important hockey in franchise history. Their Semi-Finals draw, the South Division champion Lone Star Brahmas, survived a scare from the Corpus Christi IceRays with a Game 5 victory over the weekend. Facing elimination in Game 4, the Brahmas forced overtime, where a Drake Glover goal kept their series alive. Lone Star again needed extra time in Game 5, but Troy York delivered the series-winning goal to send them to Duluth.
Similar to Janesville, Lone Star won their division in 2014-15 only to fall in the Semi-Finals to the Austin Bruins. Last year, like Janesville, the Brahmas finished 2nd and were defeated in four games in the opening round. This will be the year their playoff fortunes won’t run parallel. One of these two clubs will pick up two wins and play Sunday for all the marbles.
Robertson Cup Semi-Finals Schedule
Game 1 | Thursday, May 11 | Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Center | 7:30 p.m. CDT
Game 2 | Friday, May 12 | Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Center | 7:30 p.m. CDT
Game 3* | Saturday, May 13 | Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Center | 6:00 p.m. CDT
Key to the Series – Janesville Jets
Get pucks on net: Max Prawdzik decided in December to take his second semester off from Boston University, where he had not appeared in a single regular season game for the Terriers, and join the Brahmas for some playing time. Initially, Prawdzik and Alec Calvaruso shared the net, but the Massachusetts newcomer stole the spot down the stretch. The Brahmas are frustratingly good at keeping their goaltenders’ workload light. In front of Prawdzik, they allow just 22 shots per game. The Jets just hung 12 goals on Midwest Division Goaltender of the Year Erik Gordon. Their forward depth is second to none, but all four lines need to find ways to keep Prawdzik busy.
Key to the Series – Lone Star Brahmas
Contain: Same story, different angle. Despite massively outshooting Corpus Christi all series, Lone Star was nearly ousted at the hands of red-hot goaltending from Tomas Vomacka. Barczewski, whose regular season numbers were even better than Vomacka’s, could again force Lone Star into a situation where defending their crease and grinding out 1-0 wins is their only answer. Janesville’s forwards boast six Division I commitments over four lines. Lone Star, like all Jets opponents, will not be afforded the luxury of picking one line to shut down. The Brahmas will need to contain the Jets’ scoring depth and keep pucks away from Prawdzik.
Forward to Watch – Janesville Jets
LW Kip Hoffmann (reg: 16-16—32; p/o: 7-4—11): It’s difficult to overstate what Kip Hoffmann just did to the defending Robertson Cup champions. The Chicago suburbs kid exploded for a hat trick in Game 2 and sent the Ice Dogs golfing with a 2-2—4 line in Game 4. Hoffmann tallied eight points in the series and was far and away the leader in shots with 17, six more than the 11 from Joey Abate and Keegan Miller. Hoffmann and the veteran line of Cullen Munson and Peter Bates can stretch the ice and create in small spaces.
Forward to Watch – Lone Star Brahmas
F Troy York (reg: 24-17—41; p/o: 4-2—6): The hometown hero broke out the cape again Saturday with the Game 5 overtime goal to advance his Brahmas. York, an uncommitted ’96, has a knack for finding the back of the net, demonstrated in the South Finals with four pucks past the lights out goaltending of Tomas Vomacka.
Defenseman to Watch – Janesville Jets
D Adam Roeder (reg: 7-25—32; p/o: 0-5—5): The captain stepped up big time when his Jets had the Ice Dogs against the wall. Roeder tallied an assist in Game 3 and three in Game 4. Like Hoffmann, Roeder’s playoff experience is shining through. The St. Louis native picked up five points—all assists—in the series, and has stayed out of the penalty box all playoffs.
Defenseman to Watch – Lone Star Brahmas
D Simon Lööf (reg: 2-24—26; p/o: 0-3—3): The Swedish ’96, committed to Merrimack, came to the States this season to play his last year of junior eligibility and earn an NCAA commitment. Lööf is a reliable puck-mover, and at 6’2″, is hardly an easy man to muscle away from in front of his net.
Goaltender to Watch – Janesville JetsG Jake Barczewski (reg: 35 GP, 27-6-0-0, 1.94 GAA, .929 SV%, 2 SO; p/o 7 GP, 6-1-0-0, 1.72 GAA, .935 SV%, 1 SO): The rookie sensation snuffed out the Ice Dogs with just one goal against in Games 1 & 2 in Janesville, and put them away with an 18/20 performance in Game 4. Barczewski is strong, athletic, and best of all, hates losing with every ounce of his being.
Goaltender to Watch – Lone Star Brahmas
G Max Prawdzik (reg: 14GP, 9-3-1-0, 2.14 GAA, .908 SV%, 1 SO; p/o 8 GP, 6-2-0-0, 1.83 GAA, .911 SV%): The 6’3″ Prawdzik will likely return to Boston University this fall after getting some playing time with the Brahmas. Head coach David Quinn was probably very pleased with Prawdzik’s play behind the stellar Lone Star defense. Facing elimination in Games 4 & 5, Prawdzik went a combined 39 for 41 and got the two wins his team needed.
All games this weekend will be broadcast live on www.HockeyTV.com with the Jets’ call of Mason Lyttle and Kevin Meegan. Click here for tickets, scheduling, hotel information, and more on the 2017 Robertson Cup Championship Weekend.