RICHFIELD, MN — It didn’t come the pretty way, and it came later than they’d hoped, but as of early Friday morning, the Jets have clinched their 9th playoff appearance in their 10 seasons of franchise history.
The Fairbanks Ice Dogs, to whom the Jets fell in a three-game sweep last weekend, trounced their in-state rivals, the Kenai River Brown Bears, 5-2 late last night in Soldotna. The Brown Bears’ loss extinguished the last flame of hope for what would have been their first playoff appearance in five years, and handed the Midwest Division’s fourth and final playoff berth to the Jets.
It’s welcome news to the Jets, but it’d be misstating the facts to say they’re celebrating the berth.
Their second of two Alaska road trips earned them just two of a possible ten points and allowed the Springfield Jr. Blues to jump into third place. Janesville opened the trip with a narrow 1-0 win over Kenai River, featuring a 41-save shutout from Cole Brady. The Brown Bears came back for revenge on Saturday, downing the Jets 4-1, and Fairbanks took the first two of a three-game set by a combined score of 11-3. The Ice Dogs opened a 3-0 lead in the Saturday finale, which Janesville almost surmounted, but the Jets’ comeback attempt fell short in a 3-2 decision, despite a fantastic 40/43 night from Sam Metcalf.
Six games remaining in the regular season is still enough, though, to get on a little hot streak.
The Jets’ opportunity now is to get more comfortable in their systems, pick up steam, and better their seeding for next month’s Robertson Cup Playoffs. Only seven points separate the fourth-place Jets and the second-place Magicians, and four straight contests between the two will determine a massive amount of the Midwest Division playoff picture.
Time for some quick arithmetic.
Mathematically, the Jets’ cap is 71 points, and if those four hypothetical wins over Minnesota all come in regulation, the Magicians’ cap would max at 70, guaranteeing a no worse finish than third for Janesville. The Jr. Blues’ cap is currently 74, but if the Jets can defeat them twice in regulation in the final regular season series, that drops the Springfield cap to 70. Succinctly put: winning six straight, all in regulation, guarantees the Jets a second place finish.
In a certain sense, the playoffs have already begun. There has been no more important game this season than the one the Jets play tonight, and that will be true again tomorrow. It will be true again next Thursday at home, and again the following night.
You love to see it.
Tune in on HockeyTV tonight and tomorrow for Calvin Bush with the Jets’ call in Richfield.
Record: 27-22-2-3 (4th, Midwest)
Road Record: 12-10-0-2
Last Ten Games: 4-5-0-1
Goals For/Game: 2.52 (18th)
Goals Against/Game: 3.09 (15th)
Shots For/Game: 28.26 (21st)
Shots Against/Game: 32.39 (12th)
Power Play: 14.9% (21st)
Penalty Kill: 77.2% (17th)
Top Scorers: F Jack Vincent (53GP—13G-18A—31PTS); F Matt Hanewall (53GP—14G-15A—29PTS); F Nicholas Nardella (42GP—9G-18A—27PTS)
Goaltenders: Cole Brady (20-14-1-3; 2.82 GAA; .912 SV%); Sam Metcalf (7-9-0-1; 3.10 GAA; .902 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
Record: 32-20-2-0 (2nd, Midwest)
Home Record: 15-10-0-0
Last Ten Games: 4-6-90-0
Goals For/Game: 2.83 (14th)
Goals Against/Game: 2.56 (8th)
Shots For/Game: 30.83 (15th)
Shots Against/Game: 33.00 (13th)
Power Play: 25.0% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 76.4% (19th)
Top Scorers: F Cameron Buhl (50GP—19G-38A—57PTS); F John Keranen (46GP—20G-23A—43PTS); F Matthew Stanton (52GP—16G-23A—39PTS)
Goaltenders: Ethan Haider (17-13-2-0; 2.36 GAA; .927 SV%); Jack Robbel (14-6-0-0; 2.40 GAA; .927 SV%)
Rostered Commitments: F Cameron Buhl (Alaska-Anchorage); G Ethan Haider (Clarkson); F Jake Hale (Minnesota-Duluth); F Jackson Jutting (Colorado College); F John Keranen (Army); D Andrew Kruse (Air Force); F Valentino Passarelli (Miami); G Jack Robbel (Lake Superior State)