SOLDOTNA, AK — Tonight and tomorrow, a pair of games against the Kenai River Brown Bears will cap off a busy week for the Jets.
Coming off of a three-point home split versus the Chippewa Steel, the Jets celebrated two commitments this week, both coming in a span of 24 hours.
On Tuesday, forward Brenden Olson committed to Minnesota State, becoming the seventh player on the current roster with a future in Division I hockey. The following morning, the team flew to Seattle for the first leg of the trip to Alaska, and defenseman Sean Driscoll made public his commitment to Boston University between flights.
“Anytime anybody commits, it’s great for the team,” Driscoll said Wednesday about the team’s energy following the back-to-back announcements. “The boys rally around it. It’s something to strive for, and we do. We all know that individual success comes from team success. It’s a total team effort here.”
Now looking at a seven-game road trip, with the final five against the top two teams in the Midwest Division, the Jets could use a little extra fuel to their fire.
The first-place Minnesota Magicians clinched their playoff spot with a Saturday win, but their lead over the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the Midwest division race is just two points. Only five points separate the Jets and the Ice Dogs, and the Springfield Jr. Blues are one point back of the Jets in the fourth and final playoff spot. Such a tight window means every game matters for every team, including this pair against the Brown Bears.
Kenai River opened their season by sweeping the Jets in Janesville, their first ever sweep over the Jets in history. The Jets returned the favor in October, taking a pair of wins out of the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. The teams then split a series in Janesville in late December.
Tonight the Brown Bears play their first home game in nearly a month after an seven-game swing through the lower 48. Kenai River ran a 3-3-1 record against Chippewa, Springfield, and Minnesota, beating each team once. Home and rested, their set against the Jets starts eight in a row in front of their hometown fans.
With a .625 combined win percentage against the Brown Bears and the Steel, the Jets know (perhaps all too well) they can’t overlook any opponent. With the division standings as tight as they are, every game from here out is a playoff game.
What better way to celebrate Driscoll’s and Olson’s commitments than with a five-game sweep in Alaska?
The puck drops late tonight, tomorrow, and next week. The Jets and the Brown Bears battle tonight at 10:30pm Central on HockeyTV.
Record: 26-18-2-3 (3rd, Midwest)
Road Record: 11-6-0-2
Last Ten Games: 6-3-0-1
Goals For/Game: 2.63 (17th)
Goals Against/Game: 3.04 (16th)
Shots For/Game: 27.23 (22nd)
Shots Against/Game: 31.53 (12th)
Power Play: 15.4% (19th)
Penalty Kill: 77.0% (18th)
Top Scorers: F Jack Vincent (48GP—13G-18A—31PTS); F Matt Hanewall (48GP—13G-13A—26PTS); Multiple Players (24PTS)
Goaltenders: Cole Brady (19-12-1-3; 2.75 GAA; .911 SV%); Sam Metcalf (7-7-0-1; 3.18 GAA; .897 SV%); Garrett Nieto (3-3-0-0; 3.42 GAA; .899 SV%)*
Rostered Commitments: D Sean Driscoll (Boston University); F Brenden Olson (Minnesota State); D John Prokop (Miami); F Nicholas Nardella (Michigan Tech); F Justin Engelkes (Miami); F Erik Bargholtz (Michigan State); G Cole Brady (Arizona State); G Garrett Nieto (Union)*
* Injured Reserve
KENAI RIVER BROWN BEARS
Record: 18-26-3-2 (5th, Midwest)
Home Record: 6-11-2-1
Last Ten Games: 5-4-1-0
Goals For/Game: 2.29 (22nd)
Goals Against/Game: 2.94 (14th)
Shots For/Game: 31.10 (14th)
Shots Against/Game: 31.63 (12th)
Power Play: 20.2% (12th)
Penalty Kill: 74.6% (22nd)
Top Scorers: F Zach Krajnik (48GP—13G-26A—39PTS); D Markuss Komuls (49GP—10G-20A—30PTS); F Michael Spethmann (49GP—15G-13A—28PTS)
Goaltenders: Gavin Enright (14-17-2-2; 2.61 GAA; .916 SV%); Andrew Slobiski (0-0-0-0; 5.14 GAA; .857 SV%)
Rostered Commitments: G Gavin Enright (Bemidji State); D Markuss Komuls (Alaska-Fairbanks)