JANESVILLE, WI — Strong goaltending from Grant Riley kept the Jets in each game in Fairbanks last weekend, and a quick, opportunistic Jets attack on Saturday sent the team home from their first Alaska trip with a victory.
Despite losing the total shot battle 75-37, an injury- and illness-ravaged Jets roster found a way to take a split out of the Big Dipper Ice Arena. Janesville went into their five-game Alaska swing without expecting the help from a talented slew of forwards in Nick Michel, Jackson Sabo, Parker Lindauer, Logan Ommen, and Charlie Schoen. Then after the three-game weekend in Kenai River, the team headed into the Fairbanks series with injuries to defensemen Nick Gonrowski and Oskar Skymning. Illnesses then took forwards Jake Dunlap and Jan Lasak out of Saturday’s lineup.
For those who lost count, that’s seven forwards and two defensemen unable to play Saturday.
Fill-in help has been great, though, for Janesville, in the forms of forward Henry Sweeney, who scored his first NAHL point Saturday, and defensemen Jack Keryluk and Anthony Szurlej. Szurlej, a tough-nosed ’99, brought 79 games’ NAHL experience between the Johnstown Tomahawks (2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons) and the Brookings/St. Cloud Blizzard (2018-19 and first four weeks of this season). Keryluk, a Verona native, played both games in Fairbanks at the hip of Badger commit Casey Roepke.
The Jets’ injuries and illnesses are various, but a high-character, spirit-lifting win Saturday night to send the team home can do a lot of work. Now the team rests in their own beds as they prep for an important Pink in the Rink series with their rival Chippewa Steel, currently second in the Midwest Division.
First, a look back at the weekend in Fairbanks.
FRIDAY — L, 4-1
The Jets rode into Fairbanks with a little confidence from a 6-3 series-closing win over Kenai River, but a well-structured, veteran Ice Dogs team won the puck possession battles and never surrendered their lead, downing the Jets 4-1.
Grant Riley was tested early and often, with 16 of the Ice Dogs’ 36 shots coming in the opening frame. It wasn’t until late in the first period, though, that a shot attempt from Matt Koethe bounced in front of a crowded net front, where Luke Ciolli (15:45 1st) deposited it for the Fairbanks lead.
Barak Braslavski (2:36 2nd) doubled the Ice Dogs’ lead with a terrific wrist shot and the end of a nice passing cycle from the Fairbanks attack. Just a few minutes later, Tyler Deweese (5:26 2nd) poked a puck loose high in his defensive zone, sprung himself for a breakaway on Riley, and put his Ice Dogs up 3-0. Later in the period, the puck luck broke Janesville’s way when Isaac Novak (13:19 2nd) scored from an almost impossible angle, throwing the puck on and past Mattias Sholl from below the faceoff circle, about six inches from the wall. It was Novak’s second such goal of the Alaska trip; the future Wisconsin Badger scored one of his two goals in the Sunday Oct 13 win over Kenai River from a similar angle.
The chances kept coming from Fairbanks, and Riley stood tall to keep his Jets alive, but the levee finally broke late in the third period. Laker Aldridge set a difficult screen in front of Riley, allowing a seeing-eye point shot from Jasper Lester (15:17 3rd) to find its way through, sealing the deal for Fairbanks.
Mattias Sholl (4-3-0-1) did what he had to do on a relatively quiet night, stopping 17 of 18 shots for the victory. Grant Riley (3-5-0-0) was busy again, and battled hard despite the loss with a 32/36 evening.
SATURDAY — W, 4-2
After both Ice Dogs’ goals on Saturday, the Jets responded within 60 seconds. Janesville’s bounce-back and speed through the neutral zone helped them to a 4-2 victory Saturday night to even the weekend and finish the first Alaska trip on a high note.
Again it was Luke Ciolli (14:07 1st) scoring the game’s first goal, this time beating Grant Riley blocker side on a partial breakaway. Another Luke struck just 55 seconds later. Luke Wheeler (15:02 1st) put a nice pass over to Nick Nardella on a two-on-one, and made a nice awareness play in tight to score his first of the season when the puck bounced quickly back to him.
The Jets stole the lead in the opening minute of the second, when former St. Cloud Blizzard defenseman Anthony Szurlej (0:29 2nd) stepped into a bouncing puck in the slot and beat Mattias Sholl. Fairbanks tied the game when Tyler Deweese (7:27 2nd) was left alone in front and hammered a pass from behind the Janesville net. Again the Jets punched right back. Justin Engelkes forced a defensive zone turnover, and sent the puck down low to Isaac Novak, who found Nick Nardella (8:24 2nd) with a quick cross-crease pass for the eventual game-winning goal. Riley kept battling to hold the Jets’ lead, and Janesville’s transition game scored a critical goal late in the period to put away the game. Blake Dangos started a four-on-two rush through the neutral zone and drove the Ice Dogs’ net, setting up an easy play from Henry Sweeney to Carter Hottmann (18:36 2nd) for the veteran’s first goal of the season.
Riley held strong in the third period, and the Jets held on for the victory.
Another busy night for Grant Riley (4-5-0-0) saw 39 shots his direction, and he made 37 saves in the winning net. Mattias Sholl (4-4-0-1) faced only 19 shots in the loss, but was beaten four times on high-danger chances.
Around the Division
Topeka Pilots 3 @ Springfield Jr. Blues 1
Minnesota Magicians 1 @ Kenai River Brown Bears 0 (SO)
Topeka Pilots 2 @ Springfield Jr. Blues 1 (SO)
Minnesota Magicians 1 @ Kenai River Brown Bears 2 (OT)
|1||Kenai River Brown Bears||13||7-3-1-2||17|
|3||Fairbanks Ice Dogs||12||7-4-0-1||15|
|4||Springfield Jr. Blues||12||4-6-1-1||10|
The Jets play two of their next three weekends at home, and both series in Janesville are the team’s two benefit jersey weekends.
This Friday and Saturday, the Jets play the Chippewa Steel in another edition of the Battle of Wisconsin series for the Blain’s Dairyland Milk Can Trophy. The Steel are current holders of the traveling trophy, which stays with the team who won the most recent series (total goal differential in case of split), and enjoyed a rest last weekend. Chippewa will carry a six-game win streak into Janesville this Friday, and are undefeated in their division schedule so far.
The Jets and their top sponsor, Mercyhealth, are teaming up again this weekend for the organization’s 10th annual Pink in the Rink, a breast cancer-focused benefit for Mercyhealth Cancer Center. Jets players are again wearing specialty pink jerseys and socks for both contests, and Jets fans from near and far have multiple chances to get their hands on a one-of-a-kind piece of memorabilia. Select players’ jerseys will be auctioned at each of both Friday’s and Saturday’s two intermissions, and the remainder of the jerseys will be auctioned following Saturday’s game. Fans who can’t attend can email Mason Lyttle (email@example.com) for instructions on how to bid remotely. Bids for all jerseys start at $200.
Proceeds from the jersey auction benefit Mercyhealth Cancer Center. Last year’s event raised more than $5,000.
Both games of Pink in the Rink will be broadcast with Mike Hammett’s call on HockeyTV.
Steel @ Jets | Fri Oct 25 | 7:00pm CST
Steel @ Jets | Sat Oct 26 | 7:00pm CST