JANESVILLE, WI — The 2019-2020 Janesville Jets didn’t get the start they were looking for, falling to the rival Chippewa Steel in the season-opener Friday night.
This season’s home opener broke an attendance record with 802 fans, passing the 2015-16 opener mark of 724.
Head coach Corey Leivermann and assistant coach Lennie Childs opened their first full season together. Childs joined the program in November 2018, and Leivermann was promoted to head coach in January 2019.
The Jets have nine returning players this season: forwards Parker Lindauer, Nick Nardella, Carter Hottmann, Luke Wheeler, Logan Ommen, and Justin Engelkes, and defensemen Andrew Hicks, Nick Gonrowski, and Philip Björkman.
Rookie goaltender Cristian Wong-Ramos earned the start.
The Steel got on the board early in the first period with a goal from Braden Lindstrom (4:03 1st) , assisted by Grisha Gotovets.
Later, the Jets successfully killed a tripping minor assessed to Nick Nardella, and just a few shifts later, rookie forward Jackson Sabo (18:01 1st) tied the game with his first NAHL goal. Philip Björkman and rookie defenseman Casey Roepke, a Wisconsin Badgers commit, picked up assists.
The Steel regained the lead, this time for good, on a goal from Jacob Dirks (10:18 2nd), his first of what would become a hat trick night for him. Chippewa struck twice late in the second, once from Dirks (17:36 2nd) and just 18 seconds later, Luke Farthing (17:54 2nd) put his Steel ahead by three.
The Jets opened the third period with energy, and brought themselves to within two on another marker from Jackson Sabo (11:28 3rd), the team’s first power play goal of the season. Assists went to Roepke, his second of the night, and Wong-Ramos, who became the first Jets goalie to collect a point in his NAHL debut.
Less than six minutes later, Janesville’s power play went right back out with a chance to cut the deficit to one, but a shorthanded marker from Dirks (16:11 3rd) sealed his hat trick and the Chippewa win.
Wong-Ramos stopped 26 of 31 for the Jets. Trent Burnham got the win in the Chippewa net with 30 saves on 32 shots.
A 7:10pm rematch tonight in Chippewa Falls gives the Jets a shot at revenge before every club reports to Blaine, Minnesota, next week for the 17th annual NAHL Showcase Tournament.