JANESVILLE, WI — On the road in Springfield, the Jets split a set of 4-2 contests against their longest-tenured rivals, the Springfield Jr. Blues.
A loss Friday extended the Jets’ skid to five games, but Janesville capitalized on turnovers Saturday and got some fantastic goaltending from Cole Brady to finally snap their funk with a big win.
Outside of the action in the Illinois capital, the Midwest Division was extremely quiet. The Magicians downed the Steel on Saturday night in the only other division contest, bumping their division cushion to a full eight points over Fairbanks.
The Jets and Jr. Blues meet in Janesville this weekend, and again in two weeks. Just six points separate the fourth-place Jr. Blues and the second-place Ice Dogs, with the Jets smack dab in between. With a little more than a third of the season remaining, every game matters that much more.
FRIDAY — L, 4-2
The Jets converted on their first power play chance of the night when Justin Engelkes (12:00 1st) took a pass from newcomer Nick Gonrowski and stepped into a wrist shot. Springfield tied it in the final minute of the period on a goal from former Jet and Midwest-leading scorer Ben Schmidling (19:14 1st), who scored from the left wing in transition.
The Jets killed three more penalties in the second period, including 1:15 of a 5-on-3, but Springfield jumped ahead late with another goal from Ben Schmidling (16:21 2nd). Defenseman Sam Sterne caught Janesville on a bad change and sprung Schmidling with a beautiful stretch pass, finding him at the attacking blue line for an easy breakaway.
Springfield padded their lead with third period goals from Nick Techel (6:29 3rd) and Nikita Kozyrev (11:26 3rd), the latter of the two scored on the power play. The Jets got one more tally on the man advantage from Brenden MacLaren (13:25 3rd), a one-timer from Nick Nardella that beat Jack Williams along the ice, but the Jr. Blues stifled the Jets’ attack. In each of the final two periods, the Jets were held to just four shots on goal.
It was a relatively quiet night in net for Jack Williams (12-10-0-1), who picked up a win on 15 saves’ effort. Cole Brady (15-10-1-2) made 21 saves on 25 shots.
SATURDAY — W, 4-2
The Jets pulled the monkey off the back Saturday night with highlight reel goals and excellent goaltending, skating to another 4-2 decision, this time on the winning end.
Scoring first for Janesville was birthday boy Austin Koss (17:11 1st), who picked up a puck knocked loose by an excellent forecheck from Erik Bargholtz.
The Jets doubled their lead midway through the second period when Tommy Middleton (12:44 2nd) tipped home a shot from Sean Driscoll.
Later, Springfield converted their only power play of the night when Ben Schmidling (17:08 2nd) picked up his third goal of the weekend on a low-angle one-timer from Brandon Puricelli. Schmidling’s weekend eventually earned him the Bauer Midwest Division Star of the Week. A little more than a minute later, the Jr. Blues tied it with a quick shot from Max Brainin (18:17 2nd).
The teams skated about nine more minutes at an even 2-2 game until Brenden Olson (6:59 3rd) picked up the eventual game-winner on an absolutely beautiful effort.
The Jr. Blues pressed on, but the dagger goal came later on a 2-on-1 with Tommy Middleton and Carter Hottmann (17:08 3rd). Middleton’s assist helped him earn 2nd Star of the Week, and brought him to four points in his last four games.
Cole Brady (16-10-1-2) was phenomenal for Janesville, stopping 35 of 37 shots in the win. Janis Voris (4-1-0-1) finished 24/28, and was beaten in regulation for the first time this season.
Around the Division
Minnesota Magicians 3 @ Chippewa Steel 2
|2||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||39||21-13-3-2||47|
|4||Springfield Jr. Blues||38||19-16-2-1||41|
|5||Kenai River Brown Bears||38||12-22-2-2||28|
The same two teams duke it out this weekend on the Jets’ ice.
Friday night, the Jets are giving away a free game-used, autographed stick from Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Janesville Youth Hockey will showcase its skills on Saturday’s Youth Hockey Night, and following the game, the Jets hold their second of two annual Skate with the Jets promotions, featuring free skate rentals and the chance to take a lap with Jets players.
Tickets are on sale online and at any Lions Quick Mart location.
Both games will be broadcast on HockeyTV.com.
Jr. Blues @ Jets | Fri Feb 1 | 7:05pm CST
Jr. Blues @ Jets | Sat Feb 2 | 7:05pm CST